One of five people who contracted Legionnaires' disease at the Pittsburgh VA hospital in Oakland has died, health officials said today.
Ronald Voorhees, interim director of the Allegheny County Health Department, said the VA told his office that the victim was the one most recently confirmed, on Nov. 22, to have the pneumonia-like infection that spread through the water system at its University Drive hospital.
Since then, the VA has refused to say anything publicly about that fifth patient, although it did say the other four are recovering.
Legionnaires' cases are not unheard of in Western Pennsylvania. The location of this outbreak has grabbed the attention of the medical community because it is the same hospital that used to be home to researchers who made many landmark findings about the disease -- including the 1982 discovery that tied the spread of the disease to water systems.
Some outside the medical community have noted the outbreak for other reasons. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., issued a statement calling this fifth patient's death "a terrible tragedy."
"Our nation's veterans make great sacrifices to service this country and they deserve the best care," he said.
Earlier in the week Mr. Casey wrote to the Department of Veterans Affairs to express concern about the situation in Pittsburgh and to call on the agency to take steps to ensure veterans in Pittsburgh and across the commonwealth have access to clean water.