New CDC Report Focuses on Healthcare-associated Legionnaires' Disease

Published June 21, 2017

​The latest issue of the monthly report CDC Vital Signs focuses on healthcare-associated Legionnaires’ disease and highlights the importance of developing, implementing, and maintaining effective water management programs to reduce the risk of Legionella growing and spreading in building water systems. According to CDC, the size and complexity of water systems in healthcare facilities might increase the risk for Legionella growth. In addition, these facilities care for people whose underlying risk factors might make them more susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease. This month’s Vital Signs includes a new fact sheet (PDF), a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) early release, an infographic, and other resources related to Legionnaires’ disease.

CDC’s early-release MMWR report characterizes Legionnaires’ disease cases from the 21 U.S. jurisdictions—20 states and one large metropolitan area—that reported exposure information for more than 90 percent of Legionella infections in 2015. Of the 2,809 Legionnaires’ disease cases reported, 85 were definitely and 468 were possibly healthcare-associated cases. CDC defines definite healthcare association as “hospitalization or long-term care facility residence for the entire 10 days preceding symptom onset,” and possible association as “any exposure to a healthcare facility for a portion of the 10 days preceding symptom onset.” The majority of definite healthcare-associated cases occurred in persons over 60 years of age, and 25 percent of those with definite healthcare-associated Legionnaires’ disease died.

“This report demonstrates that Legionnaires’ disease continues to result from exposures to healthcare facility water systems,” the MMWR report reads. “The high case fatality rate of healthcare-associated Legionnaires’ disease underscores the need for effective prevention and response programs.”

In addition to the implementation and maintenance of water management programs, CDC stresses that rapid case identification and investigation could reduce the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases associated with healthcare facilities.

In June 2016, CDC released guidance intended to help building owners and managers prevent the conditions that lead to Legionella growth in water systems.

AIHA’s guideline, Recognition, Evaluation, and Control of Legionella in Building Water Systems, is available for purchase in the AIHA Marketplace. An article introducing the guideline appeared in the June/July 2015 issue of The Synergist.