Last year, at least two patients — including a woman who died — contracted the severe type of pneumonia that spreads through contaminated water at the hospital.

Share story

Legionnaires’ disease has sickened a patient on a cancer unit within the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC), less than a year after the death of a woman who contracted the illness at the hospital following a rash of cases the year before.

The patient, whose age and gender remains unknown, is in satisfactory condition and responding well to health professionals’ treatment after contracting the severe type of pneumonia — while health officials conduct an investigation to determine if or to what extent the infectious bacteria that causes the illness remains at the hospital, according to a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Among other precautionary steps, hospital staff have talked to patients and families who are on the unit, called the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, as well as closed down two rooms in which the patient received care, the spokeswoman, Susan Gregg, wrote in a news release. They also are conducting tests to determine where and when exactly the person contracted the disease.

Last year, medical histories for at least two patients, including the woman who died, suggested that they contracted Legionella while in the same UWMC building in which five people picked up the illness in 2016, called Cascade Tower. Two patients that year died.

Legionnaires’ disease stems from an organism widely found in natural water supplies, and it occurs when people breathe in mist or vapor contaminated with the bacteria. Healthy people exposed to the bacteria typically don’t get sick, but it can be dangerous, even deadly, to people older than 50, former or current smokers and particularly those with weakened immune systems.

In the release, Gregg wrote UWMC is working with Public Health — Seattle & King County and the state Department of Health to investigate the recent case and ensure the safety of patients and staff.

They believe the report is isolated and stress the disease is rarely spread person to person.