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

Rare form of pneumonia related in inhalation of Legionella bacteria

By Van Darden - Managing Editor

SAN ANTONIO - At least two Brooke Army Medical Center staff members have been confirmed to have Legionnaires’ disease, BAMC spokesman Robert Whetstone said Wednesday.

The two people work in a separate building adjacent to the hospital, Whetstone said, and have “reported symptoms, testing and treatment” for Legionella bacteria.

Because both cases occurred in the same location and in the same year, it is considered an outbreak.

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. 

Whetstone said since both BAMC staff members worked in the same place, the other people who work in that building were relocated to an area where they can continue to work. He said the hospital will conduct “extensive testing to determine if the building is the source of the bacteria.”

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

Whetstone said that once the testing for the bacteria’s source is completed, BAMC officials will provide “timely information” to its staff, patients, and the public.

He said BAMC officials are not aware of any hospital patients or clients or other staff exhibiting symptoms of Legionnaire’s.

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