Meant to Soothe, Hospital Water Walls Spread Danger

Water wall linked to outbreak of Legionnaire's disease
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2012 6:36 AM CST
Meant to Soothe, Hospital Water Walls Spread Danger
A fount of disease?   (Shutterstock)

Getting too close to a water wall or other decorative water fountain in a hospital can turn you into a patient, especially if you have underlying health problems, a new study warns. Researchers focused on a hospital in Wisconsin, where a water wall in the lobby was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease. Eight people—including a deliveryman and a man waiting to pick up his wife—were infected after inhaling bacteria-laden water droplets, researchers found. Quickly converting the water wall into a planter solved the problem.

Such water features are popular in health care settings because of their soothing nature, but it is hard to keep them free from bacteria even with regular cleaning, the president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America tells the Washington Post. "I guess the takeaway here is that if you have any underlying conditions, you should avoid walking by them or stay as far away as possible," she says, and hospitals "should avoid having these in their facilities altogether." (More hospitals stories.)

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