August 20, 2014

Contaminated Water at Oakland VA Hospital Possible Cause of Legionnaires’ Disease Death in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania veteran, John McChesney, has died from Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia caused by Legionella pneumophila bacteria. His death may be connected to the outbreak of the illness linked to the University Drive VA hospital in Oakland, PA, part of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System.  He died on October 23, 2012.

“The VA needs to be held accountable for the illnesses and deaths caused by contaminated water at the Oakland VA hospital,” said Fred Pritzker, an attorney who recently won $3,000,000 for a family whose loved one died of Legionnaires’ disease. “I have handled many of these cases, and in every one proven that the illnesses could have been prevented. That certainly appears to be the true in this outbreak. There is evidence that the water purification system at the University Drive VA hospital was not working well because it was not being managed properly. There is no excuse for that.”

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There are 5 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease linked to the University Drive VA hospital by analysis of genetic patterns in Legionella isolates with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the “gold standard” procedure for genotyping Legionella.  “PFGE patterns of Legionella isolates from the suspected water source and outbreak victims are compared to link the illnesses to the water source,” explained Pritzker.

The Pittsburgh VA has reported that Legionella has been found in the water system at its H.J. Heinz campus near Aspinwall. Although no illnesses have been linked to that facility, water restrictions are in effect while the water system is being treated with chlorine.

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