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St. Mary's Hospital

St. Mary's Hospital

St. Mary’s Hospital has a case of Legionnaires’ disease, a state official said Thursday, joining four cases reported by UW Hospital Wednesday.

UW Hospital discovered a fifth case Thursday, and one of its four previous patients died late Wednesday, spokeswoman Lisa Brunette said. The patient who died was in the hospital for multiple, severe health problems and the death was not unexpected, she said.

The St. Mary’s patient has had no contact with UW Hospital, said Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health Services. The patient contracted Legionnaires’ in the community, not in a health care setting, said Lisa Adams, a St. Mary’s spokeswoman. That conclusion is based on the onset of the patient’s symptoms, she said.

Legionnaires’ isn’t uncommon, and the state has had reports of 11 confirmed or suspected cases in the past week, including those at UW and St. Mary’s, Miller said. The other cases do not involve people or institutions in Dane County, and no broader outbreak is suspected, said health department spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt.

UnityPoint Health-Meriter has not had any recent Legionnaires’ cases, spokeswoman Leah Huibregtse said.

At UW Hospital, Brunette said two of the initial four patients diagnosed with Legionnaire’s remain in the hospital, in good condition. The fourth had been discharged as of Wednesday.

Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Hospital, said Wednesday that UW’s cluster of cases appears to be linked to a decision about three weeks ago to reduce water flow at the hospital during low-demand times. That can make the water system more vulnerable to infectious bacteria, she said. Regular flow has been resumed.

UW Hospital finished extensively chlorinating its water system to kill the bacteria Thursday morning, Brunette said. Patients throughout the hospital are able to shower again after being told not to, as a precaution, late Tuesday and Wednesday.

Legionnaires’, a type of pneumonia, spreads in airborne droplets from hot water. The bacteria, which can be found at low levels in tap water, is mostly problematic for people with chronic diseases or who are already ill.

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David Wahlberg is the health and medicine reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.