Presence of Legionella bacteria closes VA clinic

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The Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Washington Crown Center was closed Friday, and will reopen Monday, after low levels of Legionella bacteria were found in the water supply.


The bacteria, which cause Legionnaire’s disease, were found during routine testing of the water last week. Test results were released Thursday, said Brandon Blatt, vice president of Sterling Medical Corp. of Cincinnati, Ohio, which leases and operates the North Franklin Township clinic through a contract with VA Pittsburgh.


Blatt said he and clinic officials are not aware of anyone becoming ill from the water.


“I want to stress that the level (of Legionella) we had retained was extremely, extremely low,” Blatt said. “Still, we wanted to respond to this immediately and aggressively.”


Immediate response is paramount in the wake of 21 patients contracting Legionnaire’s disease at two Pittsburgh-area VA hospitals in recent months.


Five died, leading to Congressional inquiries.


Sterling Medical had workers installing a system to superheat the clinic’s tap water to kill the Legionella.


Friday appointments were canceled and the clinic was closed.


A hand-printed sign on the entrance door notified patients of the closing and said the clinic would reopen Monday.


The mall otherwise was open Friday. Michael Joyce, Crown Center general manager, said the VA clinic has a water supply separated from the rest of the mall.


Blatt said in a prepared statement that “VA Pittsburgh has recently tested the water systems at its remaining four contracted community based outpatient clinics and these tests have been negative for the bacteria.”


The Legionella bacteria is found naturally in the environment, usually in water.


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