BAMC discovers likely source of Legionella bacteria outbreak

3rd case reported in 365 days prompts outbreak designation

SAN ANTONIO – The Brooke Army Medical Center identified the likely source of a Legionella bacteria outbreak.

BAMC spokesman Robert Whetstone said a hot water heater in building 15 was determined to be the source of the bacteria.

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On Feb. 6, a BAMC staff member who works in the building was confirmed to have Legionnaires' disease, Whetstone said. All personnel were moved out of the building on Feb. 6 and the building remains vacant and secured, according to a release.

“We have been conducting extensive testing in and around building 15 to determine the source of the Legionella bacteria,” said Col. Traci Crawford, BAMC’s deputy commanding officer. “Ensuring the health and safety of our patients and staff are paramount.”

Two other cases were reported in August. Because there were two or more cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported at the same facility within 365 days, it was considered an outbreak, per the Emerging and Acute Infectious ‎Disease Guidelines from the Department of State Health Services, Whetstone said in a statement.

PREVIOUSLY: BAMC confirms 2 cases of Legionnaire's disease in staff members

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia, or lung inflammation usually caused by infection, caused by exposure to the Legionella bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is very rare, with fewer than 20,000 cases reported in the U.S. per year. 

The Mayo Clinic reports that Legionnaires' disease cannot be caught from person-to-person contact. Most people who become infected inhale mist or water vapor that contains the bacteria. The bacteria can contaminate hot water tanks, hot tubs and cooling towers of large air conditioners and, while it can occur any time of the year, it is more common in the summer and fall.

According to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most healthy people have a low risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease. Mayo Clinic officials report that older adults, smokers and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to Legionnaires' disease.

Those experiencing upper respiratory or flu-like symptoms should contact their medical provider.

For more information on Legionella, visit the CDC's website.

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