Legionella found in CQ hospitals and a nursing home

CENTRAL Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CQHHS) has today confirmed that testing of hospital hot water facilities has returned low level positive results for Legionella bacteria.

Results released online today include reports for 9 CQHHS facilities. A total of 86 samples were taken at different facilities and Legionella bacteria were detected in 19 samples.

Facilities where Legionella bacteria have been detected include:

  • Rockhampton Hospital
  • Baralaba Hospital
  • Eventide Home Rockhampton
  • Woorabinda Hospital
  • Blackwater Hospital
  • Emerald Hospital

Dr James Smith, Director of Central Queensland Public Health Unit, says detection of Legionella is expected and does not give cause for concern, reiterating that the health of patients and staff is not at increased risk.

"I can confirm that the sampling program has detected low-level Legionella in some CQHHS hospital facilities" he said.

"Legionella bacteria are found commonly in the environment, particularly in water," Dr Smith said.

"Samples are also being taken from places where we think bacteria are most likely to be found, such as infrequently used showers and taps. As in other parts of the state, it is not at all surprising that Legionella bacteria have been found here."

A Legionella water testing program began last month in all Hospital and Health Services in Queensland, in response to identification of two cases of Legionnaires disease at the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane.

"The tragedy at the Wesley Hospital has given us the opportunity to assess the risk of Legionella bacteria across Queensland," Dr Smith said.

The intention of the sampling program is to provide an up-to-date, state-wide perspective on the presence of Legionella bacteria in the water supplies of Queensland public hospitals.

Results will be used to inform long-term monitoring strategies for Legionella.

Legionella

  • Legionella bacteria can cause the lung infection Legionnaires disease.
  • Bacteria are spread by way of tiny water droplets suspended in the air.
  • Legionnaires disease is not spread from person-to-person.
  • Only a very small percentage of those exposed to the bacteria develop the infection.
  • Those at greater risk are typically smokers over 50 years of age and people with weakened
  • immune systems.

Dr Smith said that as use of hospital facilities changes, so too does the demand for showers and other water outlets. Infrequent use can then create a dead space which allows bacteria to grow.

"Once we had initial positive results, we took immediate corrective action in line with Department of Health guidelines" he said.

"This involved isolating the outlet (such as a tap or shower), disinfecting or replacing fittings and then flushing the outlet."

Samples are taken after the corrective action to ensure that levels of Legionella have been minimised in the system.

Regular maintenance procedures are being developed to ensure regular flushing of all infrequently used taps and shower heads in CQHHS clinical areas.

Dr Smith said there had been no cases of Legionnaires disease linked to CQHHS facilities at any time in the past 10 years.

Legionnaires disease is a notifiable condition and Central Queensland Public Health Unit follows up all confirmed cases.

Further information on Legionnaires disease, including reports of Legionella testing in each hospital and health service can be found on the Queensland Health website at: www.health.qld.gov.au/legionnaires/.



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