Officials from the Ohio Department of Health and Franklin County Public Health conducted an environmental-health assessment Saturday morning, June 1, at Mount Carmel Grove City to help determine how seven cases of Legionnaires' disease occurred at the hospital.

An environmental-health assessment is a tool developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify high-risk areas where the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease might be present and determine recommended actions to resolve the issue, said Rebecca Fugitt, assistant chief of the Ohio Department of Health's Bureau of Environmental Health and Radiation Protection.

"Mount Carmel has been very cooperative and took the team everywhere we needed to see," she said.

The assessment is expected to lead to a set of recommendations that would be forwarded to Mount Carmel, Fugitt said.

"They are already working as we speak on implementing disinfection of their water system and taking other steps to address the situation," she said.

Working with local health officials, Mount Carmel has determined at least seven confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease in patients who recently received treatment at the Grove City hospital, according to a statement by Dr. Richard Streck, chief clinical-operations officer with Mount Carmel Health System.

"We are partnering with Franklin County Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health, in conjunction with the CDC, to identify the source of bacteria," Streck said. "We are running additional tests on water sources throughout the hospital, and our entire water supply is undergoing supplemental disinfection. We’re confident that we can safely maintain full services of the hospital while we study this situation."

The hospital will continue testing the water over the next few weeks in coordination with the FCPH, ODH and CDC, he said.

The health department issued an order May 31 that Mount Carmel Health System "take immediate action" to contain the Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the Grove City hospital.

The first Mount Carmel Grove City patient diagnosed with Legionnaires' was admitted to the hospital April 29. The 210-bed hospital opened April 28.

Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton issued an adjudication order May 31, requiring the hospital to take several steps, including flushing all hot and cold water lines and fixtures throughout the entire seven-floor facility, implementing immediate remediation practices to disinfect hot and cold water lines and fixtures, testing and cleaning all ice machines and cleaning and servicing the two on-site cooling towers.

Acton also directed the hospital to provide all test results and a water-management plan to the health department.

If Mount Carmel Grove City fails to implement the ordered actions, the hospital will not be able to admit new patients, Acton said.

It will be several days at least before a complete set of recommendations will be forwarded to the hospital, Fugitt said.

"The scope of those recommendations may change depending on the results from (Saturday's) assessment," she said.

The CDC website describes Legionnaires' disease as a serious type of pneumonia caused by bacteria called legionella. People are infected by inhaling airborne water droplets containing the legionella bacteria. Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease often are associated with large or complex water systems, like those found in hospitals, hotels and cruise ships.

Cooling towers are among the most common sources of infection, according to the CDC.

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