Official: No Legionella bacteria at Cortland hospital

CORTLAND, N.Y. – Health officials at Cortland Regional Medical Center tested the hospital's facilities for Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires' disease, after several patients tested positive for the disease, a hospital official confirmed Thursday.

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Earlier this year, the hospital tested, treated, and diagnosed several patients for Legionella bacteria, according to CRMC spokesperson Lauren Mossotti-Kline. The patients came to the emergency department with symptoms characteristic of pneumonia and were later diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease.

The cases were all "community-onset" cases, meaning they were not acquired at the hospital, Mossotti-Kline said.

The hospital then began working with the state and county health departments to test its water cooling tower on three different occasions throughout the summer, she said. All three test results were negative, the last of which occurred on Sep. 22. Other buildings in the community were also tested.

Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires' disease, a more severe form of pneumonia that can be life-threatening for people with weakened immune systems. The bacteria that causes the disease is often found in water delivery systems, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Three patients at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Syracuse were recently diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. That prompted officials there to conduct extra testing of the hospital's water system.

Testing by the state health department discovered Legionella bacteria in two patient sinks and an ice machine at the Syracuse hospital.

Mossotti-Kline says the cases at CRMC came in the spring and summer months and the hospital will continue to take preventative measures against the disease.

"Although CRMC does not have any current cases of Legionella, and has not seen any cases since mid-September, the Emergency Department medical team continues to test symptomatic patients on a routine basis," the hospital said in a statement.

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