CRMC Installs Permanent Legionella Remediation System

01/06/2017

If you have been a patient or a visitor at our facility in the past 2-3 weeks, you may have seen cautionary signage posted above drinking fountains and in public bathrooms explaining that we are on a water restriction.

New York State Department of Health regulations now require that all hospitals and nursing homes test cooling towers and drinking water systems for Legionella bacteria and to report their findings to the state. As a proactive measure and in response to these new state regulations, Cortland Regional recently tested its drinking water system for the presence of Legionella. Because Legionella was found during our testing, the DOH requested temporary water restrictions be put into effect for at-risk patients until remediation is complete.

What is Legionella?
Legionella is a naturally occurring and very common bacteria that thrives in water pipes and other human-made water systems. It’s also routinely found in lakes, streams, and ground water. Other common sources include hotels, cruise ships, cooling towers, showers, decorative fountains, grocery misters, and hot tubs.

Legionella can cause a form of pneumonia (lung infection) known as Legionnaire’s disease. It is important to note that this type of bacteria is not spread through environmental or person-to-person contact, and Legionnaire’s disease is successfully treated with antibiotics in most cases.

How do people get sick from Legionella?
Most people have been exposed to Legionella, but healthy people usually do not get sick after exposure. The risk of infection occurs when inhaling aerosolized water droplets from a contaminated water source, or less commonly, by aspirating contaminated drinking water.

People at higher risk of illness include those who are current or former smokers; those with a chronic lung disease such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema); those with a weakened immune system from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure; people who take drugs that suppress the immune system such as chemotherapy or post-transplant operation, as well as people 50 years of age or older.

What is Cortland Regional doing about Legionella?
Cortland Regional began water restriction protocols for at-risk patients and residents on December 19, 2016. A permanent water treatment solution was installed on December 30, 2016. Two copper-silver ionization units are now actively killing any bacteria that may remain in our water system. This technology provides a controlled release of copper and silver ions into the water supply to kill harmful waterborne pathogens. Aside from being an effective method for combating Legionella, copper silver ionization is also the most environmentally friendly solution – with no harmful disinfection by-products.

While it is not uncommon for cases of Legionnaires to be diagnosed and treated at Cortland Regional, none of those community-acquired cases have been linked back to Cortland Regional as the source of the infection. We are exercising an abundance of caution and have been cooperating fully with all of the DOH’s recommendations and protocols to ensure that our patients, residents, and staff are informed and remain safe. If you hear or read anything to the contrary it is not accurate.

We will continue to keep you updated and we encourage you to seek out reliable health information sources if you have additional questions. 

For More Information

Cortland County Department of Health
(607) 753-5021

New York State Department of Health
(518) 402-7650

CDC Fact Sheet on Legionella