Message from Paul Ramsey on Legionella at UWMC

September 20, 2016

Dear UW Medicine Community:

In recent days, we have all been concerned by the news of Legionella pneumonia cases at UW Medical Center. During this stressful time, I want to give you an update about the actions being taken to protect patients, families, visitors and staff. I also want to thank our leaders, care providers and staff at UWMC for mobilizing quickly to address this challenge and for their commitment to provide timely and transparent communications as new information becomes available.

As of today, four patients hospitalized in the Cascade Tower have been diagnosed with Legionella pneumonia, and two of these patients have died. While Legionella bacteria may have been a contributing factor, an official cause of death has not been determined.

In response to these cases, UWMC immediately began environmental testing to identify the source and location of Legionella bacteria in the Cascade Tower. In consultation with Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following steps have been taken:

  • Use of tap water in the affected areas was discontinued on the evening of Sept. 13. Hyper-chlorination of the water system in the Cascade Tower began on Sept. 19. This is one of the standard methods for eliminating Legionella bacteria.
  • Specific high-risk patients who were hospitalized between Aug. 24 and Sept. 13 in the Cascade Tower are being contacted by phone to educate them about the signs and symptoms of Legionella pneumonia.
  • Preventive antibiotics are being provided to specific high-risk patients who are current patients.
  • Special water filters have been installed in all sinks and are being installed in all showers in the inpatient units of Cascade Tower. These filters are designed to remove Legionella bacteria from the water.
  • Other water systems at UWMC are being tested to assure that they are negative for Legionella.
  • Doctors, nurses and other care providers are monitoring for any patients that develop signs of lung infection and can order special tests for the Legionella bacteria as indicated.
  • The microbiology laboratory is monitoring all samples specifically for the Legionella bacteria in all patients who have had tests ordered for a lung infection.
  • Patients are being advised to alert their care providers if they have or develop signs and symptoms of a lung infection, such as cough, fever and shortness of breath.
  • A UW Medicine information line for Legionella pneumonia has been established for patients, family members, employees and the general public: 855.520.2252.
  • The UW Medicine website is keeping the public informed with frequent updates: see UWMC Update on Legionella

While this type of news is difficult for all of us, I am proud to lead an organization that responds to challenges in such a direct manner. Our resolve is stronger than ever to deliver the highest quality and safest care possible and to maintain the confidence and trust of our community.

Sincerely,

Paul G. Ramsey, M.D.
CEO, UW Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine,
University of Washington