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Second Kane Resident Tests Positive for Legionnella Bacteria

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
December 15, 2016
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

A second resident of Kane Regional Center in McKeesport has tested positive for the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's disease.

Dennis Biondo, executive director of the county's four* care homes for the elderly and disabled, said the infected resident has lived at Kane McKeesport since July.

"At this point, the source of the infection is unknown, but Kane McKeesport staff are working with the Health Department to actively identify any source and take appropriate remedial action," Biondo said Wednesday.

In November, county officials said that a resident of Kane McKeesport was taken to the hospital Oct. 24 and tested positve for Legionella, a water-borne bacteria that can cause a serious respiratory disease called Legionnaires' Disease.

Legionella bacteria breed in water and air conditioning systems. Most people exposed to the bacteria do not become ill, but people who are elderly or have compromised immune systems are at risk of serious infection.

Legionella bacteria enter a patient's lungs when water mist --- such as from a shower --- is breathed in.

In 2011 and 2012, six patients died following an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease at Pittsburgh's Veterans Affairs hospital in Oakland and another 16 were made seriously ill. Another outbreak was reported at the Oakland VA hospital in 2015.

When the first case was reported at Kane McKeesport, county officials installed a new water-purification system at the 360-bed facility and switched residents to drinking bottled water. In addition, showers were restricted to prevent residents from breathing in the bacteria from water vapor.

Biondo said the male resident, whose name was not released, "reported to staff that he has not had a recent shower, or drank from a faucet or fountain, or used ice from any ice machine."

The Allegheny County Health Department has been advised of the case and is investigating, he said.

Since the October incident, Biondo said, the water systems at Kane McKeesport were sanitized and flushed. Tests of the water since then "have been negative for the presence of Legionella in the water system," he said.

Kane McKeesport will, until further notice, restrict the use of showers and water fountains on the unit where the resident is located and throughout that side of the building, Biondo said.

In addition, all shower outlets and heads will be cleaned and replaced, he said, and all water outlets on the side of the building where the resident lives will be tested.

All filters in ice machines will be replaced with filters specifically designed for Legionella filtration, Biondo said; however, he noted those ice machines have not been used since October.

The county is hiring a water system expert to develop a plan specific to Legionella bacteria control, he said.

"We are continuing to do everything within our power, under the direction of the Health Department, to make sure everyone is safe," Biondo said.

*correction, not perfection: This story originally said "three." There are four Kane Centers, including McKeesport. The other three are in Glen Hazel, Ross Twp. and Scott Twp.

Originally published December 15, 2016.

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