Congressional Committee Schedules Hearing on Pittsburgh Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak

January 22, 2013
Press Release

Washington, DC – U.S. Representatives Mike Doyle (PA-14) and Tim Murphy (PA-18) along with U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) expressed support for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s decision that it will hold a hearing on the recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease at the VA’s Pittsburgh facilities.  

This week, the Committee recently that it will hold a hearing on the issue on Feb 5, 2013, at 10 a.m. in Washington, DC. The hearing will be held in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC.

“Last December, we asked the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee to look into the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease at the Pittsburgh VA, and I’m pleased that the Committee has responded so positively to our request,” Congressman Doyle said today.  “The VA Committee’s leadership followed up on our request and determined that a hearing on the outbreak was called for.  I’m grateful to Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Michaud for addressing our concerns just one day after the Committee’s first meeting of the 113th Congress.”

“We want to know that veterans can go into a hospital and trust that everything’s in place to keep them healthy and not make them worse,”
Congressman Murphy said.

"I'm pleased that the House is set to hold  a hearing on the Legionnaires' outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA,” Senator Casey said.  “I urged the VA's Inspector General to conduct an investigation into the situation because it's critical that those responsible are held accountable. I'm hopeful that this hearing will shed more light on what occurred and what can be done to prevent an outbreak of legionnaires' from occurring ever again."

Legionnaires Disease is caused by inhaling water vapor or mist containing Legionella bacteria – often in showers or hot tubs.  Thousands of Americans a year contract Legionnaires Disease, and a small number of people die from it – usually individuals who are already in ill health.  Some of the most common sources of Legionnaires Disease are water systems in hotels or hospitals.  Most such facilities have water treatment equipment to kill Legionella bacteria.  

On November 16, 2012, the Pittsburgh VA announced that an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease had taken place at its University Drive facility in Pittsburgh, infecting four patients.  The VA subsequently announced that a fifth patient had contracted the disease – and that one of the five had died.  

Congressmen Doyle and Murphy concluded that an investigation by an independent objective entity was needed to determine what happened and what should be done to prevent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease at VA facilities.  They contacted the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and requested that the Committee look into the outbreak.

Senator Casey was also concerned about the incident, and he asked the VA Inspector General to investigate the outbreak in Pittsburgh and review the risk to veterans within the VA Health System.

“As a result of our actions, the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the VA’s Inspector General are looking into this outbreak,” Congressman Doyle observed. “I’s my hope that these investigations will enable the VA to correct any deficiencies and protect the health of veterans and staff going forward.”

“We owe our veterans the best possible medical care,” C
ongressman Doyle added. “We need to make sure that a better system is in place to prevent future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease at VA facilities across the country.”