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Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data on the frequency, location, and source of recent Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks and information on proper water management programs for buildings, including healthcare facilities. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) applauds the CDC’s efforts to protect patients from this dangerous pathogen.
“As infectious disease experts, our job is to remain vigilant about protecting patients from potential exposure to infection causing agents,” said Louise M. Dembry, MD, MS, MBA, president of SHEA. “Guidance on effectively managing this environmental hazard helps all types of healthcare facilities provide safer care.”
The Legionella bacteria can cause pneumonia and pneumonia-like respiratory infections in people who inhale contaminated water droplets. Legionella bacteria occur naturally in the environment, but can be a health problem when it gets into and multiplies in water systems like decorative fountains, showers, hot tubs and cooling towers. Infection prevention experts are involved in investigating and identifying the source of Legionnaires’ outbreaks in healthcare facilities or specific geographic locations and recommending practices to prevent further infections.
“For years, SHEA members, as leaders in infection prevention, have worked to manage the environmental sources of Legionnaires’ disease before, during, and after outbreak situations, but until now the scope of this issue hasn’t been well understood,” said Dembry. “The CDC’s leadership in reporting the scope of their work on this pathogen, as well as best practices for controlling it, is timely for improving water quality and limiting this public health threat.”