According to a study published in the latest issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology an indoor waterfall inside a hospital in Wisconsin made 8 people sick with Legionnaires’ disease. If you love hanging around the indoor waterfall you may want to think twice.
Legionnaire’s Disease is a life threatening form of pneumonia. It can be contracted by breathing in mist or vapor from contaminated water. It can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to show symptoms such as high fever, chills, cough, chest pain and muscle aches. Patients are often hospitalized and the fatality rate is from 5% to 30%. As with most diseases it’s more severe in patients with underlying health issues. Most people do recover from it with antibiotics.
In Wisconsin none of the eight people who contracted Legionnaires’ disease (ages from 50 to 86) had been hospital inpatients at the time they were exposed to the bacteria. Only one person in the investigation reported lingering near the water fountain. The rest of the eight people included pharmacy patrons, a delivery man, and out-patients who just happened to pass by the decorative wall while on their way to treatment or another destinations. 4 of the 8 patients had to be hospitalized for Legionnaire’s and 3 patients ended up in intensive care units averaging 12 days in the hospital. All of the patients did survive.
Though the indoor water fountain had been routinely cleaned, the report points out that regular maintenance alone can’t reduce the risk of contamination. Health care facility guidelines developed after the outbreak advise against the installation of fountains “and other open decorative water features” within enclosed spaces in health environments because they may “represent a reservoir for opportunistic human pathogens.” Sad that a pretty and relaxing indoor waterfall can cause such harm to anyone just walking by.