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Pittsburgh VA hospital patients killed by Legionnaires' disease

Often, when people say, "there's something in the water," they don't mean it literally. But as any Pittsburgh nursing home abuse attorney knows, there can, indeed, be something in the water-and in this case, it is making some nursing home residents ill.

Five cases of Legionnaires' disease have been confirmed as originating from the water system in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. The Pittsburgh VA has also confirmed that the bacteria that causes the disease has been cleared from the water system. Of the five confirmed cases, there has been one nursing home death from the disease.

A number of other cases have been reported since January 2011, but they have not been confirmed as originating from the hospital. The VA stated that the outbreak of the disease was caused by the failure of a copper-silver ionization system that was used to treat the hospital's water.

Legionnaires' disease is typically not fatal; approximately five to 30 percent of cases result in death. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 8,000 and 10,000 people are hospitalized for Legionnaires' disease each year. This particular outbreak has garnered attention because this VA hospital is where the confirmation that the disease is spread through water was made by researchers.

The CDC noted that many cases of Legionnaires' may be mistaken for pneumonia or other similar illnesses, and thus go undiagnosed. Family members should pay close attention to relatives who are in VA hospitals and nursing homes for symptoms, including headache, fever, muscle aches, coughing and chest pain.

Liability for the death or injury of a loved one in a nursing home may be found in cases where the nursing home was negligent, including negligence in the maintenance or selection of equipment.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Legionnaires' kills Pittsburgh VA hospital patient," Sean D. Hamill, Dec. 1, 2012

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