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If Hospitals Do Not Take Precautions, Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease Can Occur

Empty hospital roomWhen people go to the hospital, they hope to get better—not develop a totally different medical problem. Unfortunately, patients face a serious risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially life-threatening infection, if the hospital does not take appropriate steps to prevent the bacteria from growing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 10 people who contract Legionnaires’ disease will die from it.

Why Legionnaires’ Disease Is Prevalent in Hospitals

Legionnaires’ disease is a very severe form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria lives in fresh water and can grow if water systems are not maintained properly—especially prevalent in complex water systems like at a hospital. People can develop the infection when they breathe in the Legionella bacteria that become airborne in droplets of air. Patients and hospital visitors at high risk of getting this deadly disease include:

  • People over 50 years old
  • A current or former smoker
  • People who suffer from chronic lung problems like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • People with a suppressed immune system, which could be caused by diseases like cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure, or taking certain medications

Hospitals must be vigilant in testing and maintaining their water system to prevent patients from contracting Legionnaires’ disease. In addition, staff has to be extra vigilant when caring for patients at high risk of becoming ill with this. A recent NBC news story shed light on how hospital malpractice can result in tragic, preventable deaths from this disease. An infant with a rare genetic disorder needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Although his surgery was successful, he died a few days later from Legionnaires’ disease. He contracted it in his hospital room when hospital staff violated the hospital’s rule that tub baths or showers were not allowed in the special unit where he was placed. This safety practice was specifically designed to prevent patients with weakened immune systems from getting this disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Most people will need to be hospitalized due to the risk of complications like respiratory failure, septic shock that is caused when the person’s blood pressure drops suddenly, kidney failure, or death.

If you contracted Legionnaires’ disease while at the hospital, it could have been caused by the hospital’s malpractice. You need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to help you prove this. Call me at 208.344.5555 or toll free at 888.716.8021 for a FREE consultation to learn how I can assist you.