Legionella outbreak shuts hospital

19 Oct 2012

Doors were closed to new patients and bed-ridden patients at a hospital where high levels of the sometimes lethal legionella bacteria were discovered in its water system.

After finding the bacteria while conducting a scheduled water test, St George's Hospital in Hornchurch, east London closed two wards with a capacity for 44 patients, North East London NHS Foundation Trust reported.

The hospital's other services continue to be open while a review is conducted.

People contract Legionnaires' disease when they breathe in small water particles that are tainted with the legionella bacteria.

Hospital officials underscored the fact that testing sometimes does uncover the bacteria, while reassuring that the majority of people who are exposed do not get the disease.

Legionnaires' disease symptoms are low-level headaches, muscle aches, fever, persistent cough and occasionally diarrhoea and vomiting.

"During routine water testing at St George's Hospital in Hornchurch, preliminary results show elevated levels of legionella bacteria in sections of the water system," a statement from North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) said, adding:

"To ensure the safety of patients at the hospital, NELFT has made the decision to move bed-based patients from the hospital."

The hospital moved patients to other accommodation on Thursday.

"It is not uncommon for routine testing to detect legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria are widely distributed within the environment and can be found in artificial water sources such as water towers associated with cooling systems, domestic water systems and spa pools, and natural water sources such as rivers and streams," the NELFT statement said.

Copyright Press Association 2012

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