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Newborns sickened with Legionnaire’s disease in home water births

Two infants born in birthing tubs last year in the U.S. were infected with Legionnaire’s disease, health officials warn.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe lung infection that causes pneumonia . About 10 per cent of people who get the infection die from it, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Friday’s issue of CDC’s weekly report on death and disease includes a field note about two cases of Legionnaires’ disease among newborns who were delivered at home in a birth tub in Arizona.

People are infected by breathing in water droplets contaminated with bacteria.

The disease is not contagious. It is treated with antibiotics.

Geoffrey  Granseth, an epidemiologist with the Arizona Department of Health Services and his co-authors say the investigation revealed several gaps in infection prevention for water births.

Both births were in tap water, which is not sterile. Legionella bacteria can grow and spread in plumbing systems, the authors noted.

“The risk for Legionella [bacteria] cannot be eliminated because of the need for warm tap water to fill the tub,” (before birth) Granseth told HealthDay News.

One of the births took place in a rented Jacuzzi hot tub with water kept at 98 F or 36.7 C. The bacteria can flourish between 25 C and 42 C, the authors said.

A follow-up investigation found a report of a Legionellosis death in an infant after a water birth in Texas in 2014. Based on that case, the state developed educational resources and guidelines on safely managing home water births.

The researchers said the risk can be reduced by “running hot water through the hose for 3 minutes before filling the tub to clear the hose and pipes of stagnant water and sediment.”

Earlier this week, CDC officials said 25 per cent of people die if they get sick with Legionnaires’ disease while in hospital, long-term care or a nursing home, where people are most vulnerable.

In a briefing with reporters, Dr. Cynthia Whitney, chief of CDC’s respiratory diseases branch, called on health-care facilities to monitor disinfectant levels and temperature, and for health-care providers to “think legionella” as a possible diagnosis for or certain patients with health-care associated pneumonia. 

CBC | Health News