HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Health officials say one of two people treated for Legionnaires’ disease at Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital has died, and the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease has been found in the Hastings hospital’s water supply.
Hospital officials said the 92-year-old man’s case was “very complex” and it’s too difficult to tell if he died from Legionnaires’ disease.
“It’s not possible to determine if Legionella and pneumonia was his cause of death. He was treated appropriately in the hospital and discharged to sub-acute rehab where he later died from chronic aspiration pneumonia,” a health official said.
Barry County health officials first mentioned the death during a Thursday news conference when reporters asked about the conditions of the two patients who prompted the water tests.
The health department says it became aware of a second case of Legionnaires’ disease in a patient at Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital last month. Following national protocol, they waited until December to test the water.
Wednesday, positive results for Legionella from the hospital’s water supply were reported to the Barry-Eaton District Health Department.
The health department said it’s unclear if the Legionella found in the hospital’s water supply is connected to the two recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease. The hospital said so far there are no confirmed cases of patients contracting Legionnaires’ disease while staying there.
Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital released the following statement Thursday:
“The safety and wellbeing of patients, visitors and staff is our top priority at Spectrum Health.
“We received a lab report on Dec. 26 that water samples at Spectrum Health Pennock in Hastings tested positive for Legionella bacteria. At this time, there has not been a confirmed case of a patient contracting Legionnaires’ disease in the hospital. Generally, exposure to Legionnaires’ disease occurs when people breathe in small droplets of water that contain the bacterium.
“We are implementing our action plan and taking all necessary steps to resolve this situation, such as water filtration systems. We are working collaboratively with the local and state health departments and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.”
The health department says Pennock Hospital is also testing patients for Legionnaires’ disease.
The city’s water supply is not affected.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionnaires’ disease is a type of severe lung infection caused by breathing in moisture contaminated with Legionella bacteria. The infection is most commonly linked to shower water, air conditioning cooling towers, decorative fountains and hot tubs.
While most people infected by Legionnaires’ disease fully recover, one out of 10 people die from the infection, the CDC says.
Most healthy people do not contract Legionnaire’s disease when exposed to the bacteria, but age, a history of smoking, lung disease and a weakened immune system can increase your risk.
Symptoms include cough, muscle aches, fever, shortness of breath, and headache. Anyone with these symptoms who may have been exposed to Legionella are urged to see a doctor immediately.
Health officials at Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital have opened a Legionella hotline. Concerned patients can call 844.689.2875 or 616.391.9986 for answers regarding the bacteria.