According to recent news reports, multiple patients at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, have contracted Legionnaires’ Disease from the ice in an ice machine. One patient has died, while two others have fallen ill from the Legionella bacteria.
After one patient contacted Legionnaires’ Disease, the hospital tested the water system, but found no indication of Legionella.
However, after examining the patients medical records, it was discovered that the patient had been restricted to eating ice chips. Upon inspection of the ice machine, it was discovered that inside the machine a water container that feeds the machine was located next to the compressor which provided enough heat to warm the water to the point where the Legionella bacteria was able to grow.
The patient likely inhaled the infected chip or melted water from the chips into his lungs.
According to the report, approximately 500 machines across UPMC’s 20 hospitals have been sterilized, while the machines that tested positive for Legionella have been removed altogether.
While the hospital’s response to discovering multiple patients had contracted Legionnaires’ Disease was appropriate, this incident highlights one of the more unusual ways Legionella can form and infect humans, and the need to be vigilant in environmental testing for contamination, to ensure proper air and water quality.