Objective: To help define the scope of nosocomial legionnaire's disease (LD) and to assess use of recommended diagnostic methods and transmission control practices.
Methods: We surveyed 253 hospitals participating in the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance (NNIS) System. The anonymous survey included questions about episodes of nosocomial LD, environmental sampling practices, maintenance of hospital water systems, and diagnostic techniques.
Results: Of 192 hospitals that responded, 29% reported at least one episode of nosocomial LD from 1990 through 1996, and 61% of these reported at least two episodes. Of 79 hospitals with transplant programs, 42% reported nosocomial LD, compared with 20% of hospitals without transplant programs. Environmental sampling had been conducted by 55% of hospitals, including 79% of those reporting nosocomial LD. Legionella were isolated in 34% that sampled potable water and 19% that sampled cooling system reservoirs. Supplemental potable-water decontamination systems were installed in 20% of hospitals. Only 19% routinely performed testing for legionellosis among patients at high risk for nosocomial LD.
Conclusions: Nosocomial LD is relatively common among NNIS hospitals, especially those performing organ transplants. Environmental sampling for Legionella is a common practice among NNIS hospitals, and Legionella often are isolated from sampled hospital cooling towers and hospital potable-water systems. Hospitals have responded to suspected nosocomial LD infection with a variety of water sampling and control strategies; some have not attempted to sample or decontaminate water systems despite identified transmission.