Water sources at more than three buildings at the Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center have tested positive for legionella, a bacteria that can cause pneumonia-like Legionnaires’ disease.
The hospital had all of its buildings tested for the bacteria after a patient tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease in October.
Test results on water samples began coming in Friday and showed that at least three buildings, including patient-care facilities and an administrative building, have some level of legionella, spokeswoman Deborah Meyer said.
Meyer did not have a figure for how many of the more than 20 buildings on the hospital campus have the bacteria because final test results have not come in yet.
She said the hospital will be notifying patients, family members and employees of the situation on Tuesday.
“We’ve been busy trying to get all these things going and looking to see what we need to do and making plans to contact everybody we need to contact,” Meyer said.
Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by inhaling water vapor contaminated with the bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bacteria is found in water and structures like hot tubs, cooling towers, large plumbing systems and decorative fountains.
The bacteria cannot be spread from person to person, according to the CDC.
Symptoms for the disease are similar to pneumonia, including coughing, shortness of breath, high fevers, headaches and body aches.
Meyer said most people have a natural immunity to legionella, but it can develop into Legionnaires’ disease in people with compromised immune systems, such as the sick or elderly.
The patient who had Legionnaires’ disease resided in the hospital’s community living center. He has been successfully treated, Meyer said.
The hospital in November had water in the community living center injected with higher levels of chlorine to rid the building of the legionella. That process will be repeated with the remaining buildings that have the bacteria, Meyer said.
Meyer said no patients will have to be displaced or relocated for the chlorination process. Patients will be provided bottled water during the process and advised not to drink from faucets or fountains.
Meyer said filters also have been installed on faucets throughout the hospital campus to filter out the legionella bacteria.
Meyer did not know when the final test results on all the buildings will be available.