Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Hospital Blamed for Spreading Legionnaires' Disease

Posted by Charles Gilman | Oct 05, 2016 | 0 Comments

Hospitals are supposed to be places to go to get better, not a place where you can catch a deadly infection. Unfortunately for a young woman in Vancouver, Washington, her visit to the hospital to receive a heart transplant resulted in her catching Legionnaires' disease, requiring extensive additional medical treatment.

Victoria Martin, 32, went to the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) this summer for a heart transplant. After a successful surgery, she spent a few days in the hospital for recovery. While there, Martin says she was exposed to the bacteria, which led to pneumonia. She had to spend 25 days in an intensive-care unit while the hospital treated her infection.

The hospital never told Martin the source of the illness. It was only after she learned of the outbreak from news reports that she found out she was one of the victims. At least seven people were infected, two of them dying from the disease. “You shouldn't go to the hospital and be doing well and be knocked down by something that shouldn't have happened,” said Martin.

Legionnaires' disease is a respiratory infection caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria was discovered after an outbreak at a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia in 1976. The bacteria usually infects humans when it grows in air and water systems including air conditioner cooling towers, hot water tanks, plumbing systems, and hot tubs.

Once exposed to the bacteria, symptoms usually appear after 2 to 14 days. Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include shortness of breath, cough, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Once the bacterial infection is confirmed, usually from a chest x-ray and urine test or lab test, treatment generally involves antibiotics. Almost 10% of all people who get Legionnaires' disease will die from the illness.

After an investigation by UWMC, they found Legionella in numerous locations around the hospital, including an ice machine, hospital sinks, and on heating and cooling units. The hospital says they contained the outbreak; however, the next day another woman was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease.

King County health officer, Dr. Jeff Duchin, has experience investigating Legionnaires' outbreaks. The bacterial outbreaks can be difficult for hospitals to track down and eliminate. “Sometimes it takes a few tries to really eradicate Legionella,” said Dr. Duchin. “It's unlikely we will pinpoint the specific sources for individual patients. There are likely multiple sources for each patient.”

In Tennessee, a similar outbreak of Legionnaires' disease has been found at a hotel. At least 7 people have been identified as getting the disease while staying at a La Quinta Inn in Memphis. As many as 6,000 people could have been exposed to the bacteria while staying at the hotel between July and September.

If you or a loved one has gotten an infection after visiting the hospital, the Gilman & Bedigian team of experienced attorneys is fully equipped to handle your claim. Our staff includes a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience. We focus on getting you compensation for your injuries so you can focus on getting better and moving forward with your life.

About the Author

Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.

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