Only on 10: Woman tests positive for Legionnaires' disease
An elderly woman who died at Kent Hospital in Warwick tested positive for Legionnaires' disease, a condition she acquired at the hospital.
The woman died in May. Her name was not released.
The hospital said the woman had other health problems too, and the cause of death was not specific to Legionnaires' disease.
"Legionella is a germ found in water. It's found in water that's warm and stagnant. Things that kill it are heating it and adding chlorine and other chemicals that will get rid of legionella. Hospitals are at risk for legionella because our water supply can only be heated to 120 degrees for patient safety purposes," said Dr. David Lowe, an infectious disease specialist at Kent Hospital.
The hospital informed the Rhode Island Department of Health in May and worked with officials to monitor and take measures to identify the source and fix the problem.
"The systems were reviewed properly. All of the tests were monitored. The tests were and continued to be reviewed and then, when needed, stepping up the level of investigation to levels that you maybe only find in certain critical care facilities in those that deal with immuno-compromised transplants," said Jim Beardsworth, a spokesman for Kent Hospital.
Officials found four of 24 ice machines at the hospital tested positive for legionella. But Beardsworth says there's no definative link between the positive test and the hospital's patient.
"Stagnant water. They weren't being used enough. We found a defect in the machine itself. In the machine, there's a tube. They removed the tube and it grew legionella. And we've removed all the tubes from the machines. Counts from the machines are now zero," Lowe said.
In any given year, there are between 20 and 40 cases of Legionnaires' disease in Rhode Island. So far there have been 32 cases this year.