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St. Joseph's Hospital waiting on tests of water system for Legionnaires' Disease

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse hospital is waiting on tests to determine whether it, in fact, has the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' Disease, in its water system. Hospital officials should know in about a week whether three cases of the disease could have been acquired at the hospital, or somewhere else. One of those patients ended up dying, though hospital officials say multiple medical issues contributed to that patient’s death.
After two cases of Legionnaires' disease turned up at St. Joseph's this month, the hospital conducted several additional tests to determine if the Legionella bacteria that causes this form of pneumonia, was present in its water system. All were negative. After a third case turned up, Sandra Sulik, the vice president of medical affairs at Saint Joe’s, says the state Health Department administered a preliminary test that was positive. She expects to get a more definitive answer though in about a week, when culture based test will be ready to look at.

"The positive test could be from dead bacteria, or live bacteria or active bacteria.  We have to wait for that culture to know for sure is it true, active bacteria or a false positive from dead bacteria that happened to be there."

In the meantime, the hospital has lifted restrictions on water use that it imposed last week, and it’s installing new filters in all patient care areas, which can filter out possible contaminants, including the Legionella bacteria. It’s also providing water and coffee to visitors and employees. As for the future, Sulik says if the culture comes back positive, there are further steps St. Joe’s can take to make their water system safer.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.