Health care-associated Legionnaires’ disease was reported in 76% of 21 U.S. jurisdictions, according to 2015 national surveillance data from a new CDC Vital Signs report.

Legionnaires’ disease  is particularly lethal when contracted in a health care facility with a death rate of 1 in 4 for those who become infected. The analysis found that 3% of Legionnaires’ disease cases are definitely associated with a health care facility while 17% were deemed as possibly associated with a health care facility.

In total, 72 facilities reported cases, with one to six cases reported per facility. Most (88%) were in individuals aged ≥60 years and associated with long-term facilities (80%), while hospitals accounted for 18% of cases.

Infections occur when patients breath in small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria. “Controlling these bacteria in water systems can be challenging, but it is essential to protect patients,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, MD. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a Survey and Certification Memo on June 2, indicating requirements and policies that facilities are expected to follow in order to reduce the risk of infections.

“Safe water at a health care facility might not be on a physician’s mind, but it’s an essential element of health care quality,” said Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Having a water management program that focuses on keeping facility water safe can help prevent Legionnaires’ disease.”

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