Legionella bacteria discovered at Winnipeg’s Victoria Hospital, experts say not to worry

File / Global News

WINNIPEG — The presence of legionella bacteria, which can potentially lead to deadly Legionnaires’ Disease, has been discovered within some water taps of Victoria Hospital in Winnipeg. But medical officials say it poses no ongoing threat to patients.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) said the potentially harmful bacteria was found in “routine surveillance”, and locations where the presence of legionella was found is now being disinfected.

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“It should mean absolutely nothing [to patients],” said Dr. John Embil, Director of Infection Prevention of the WRHA.

“We have already super-chlorinated the water and all we’re doing now is repeating our specimens over the next two weeks and hopefully all will be clear.”

Legionella, a type of bacteria that is found in natural water sources such lakes and ponds, is generally too low to cause disease or harm to humans. But under certain conditions, in which bacteria growth is promoted in stagnant or warm water, legionella can become dangerous. Legionnaires’ Disease occurs when people are exposed to legionella bacteria via droplets or breathing in contaminated air.

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The symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease are similar to pneumonia – resulting in high fever, coughing, chills and nausea. In extreme cases, it can cause death. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, that result is extremely rare; less than 100 cases per year are determined to be Legionnaires’ Disease.

Embil said he is confident no patients have been exposed to the bacteria and has not seen any reported cases of illness.

“I have personally reviewed the laboratory records and to date, we have not had any isolates at any Winnipeg Regional Health Authority facility,” Embil added.

The WRHA said that the presence of the legionella bacteria at Victoria Hospital’s oncology unit has been defined as lower than “reportable levels” and thus does not pose a health risk to patients.

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