Western State Hospital takes precautions to ensure safe water for patients, families and staff

Release Date: 
Dec 23 2016
DSHS Office of Communications
Adolfo Capestany
(360) 902-8007, desk; (360) 878-1240, mobile

Based on the advice of infectious disease specialists, Western State Hospital is taking the following immediate short-term precautions one of its patients was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease on December 13, 2016.

  • Use bottled water in Building 29, where preliminary water testing detected the presence of the Legionella bacteria.
  • Restrict showers and provide other options to maintain personal hygiene.
  • Engage an industrial hygienist familiar with legionella to assist the hospital in developing and implementing a legionella control plan.

“We appreciate the partnership with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, the state Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in this case,” said Carla Reyes, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Social and Health Services’ Behavioral Health Administration. 

“We are taking all recommended precautions to ensure patients, families and staff are safe,” Reyes said. The state Department of Health said Friday it believes the risk of Legionnaires’ disease is low because of actions the hospital already has taken.

Building 29 has more than 200 patients. Extensive tests of staff and patients have found no other instances of Legionnaires’. WSH first learned the bacteria may be present on December 13 when one of its patients who had been transported to a local hospital with pneumonia tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease.

The hospital immediately asked that its water system be tested and has been working with the Department of Health to complete the tests.

Legionnaires’ is a type of severe pneumonia, caused by breathing in small droplets of water that contain Legionella. Its symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache and fever. The disease is treated with antibiotics.

It is typically a health threat for individuals with weakened immune systems and chronic lung diseases. It is not spread through person-to-person contact. According to the CDC, about 5,000 cases are reported each year. In 2014 in Washington, about 70 cases of the disease were reported, according to the state Department of Health.


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