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Coronavirus ward closed after Legionnaires’ bacteria found in water

No patients at Sharon Hospital show symptoms of potentially fatal disease, all moved to emergency underground complex at Beilinson Hospital

Screen capture from video of the coronavirus facilities at Hasharon Hospital, in Petah Tikva. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of the coronavirus facilities at Hasharon Hospital, in Petah Tikva. (YouTube)

The Hasharon Hospital in Petah Tikva, outside Tel Aviv, was forced to close its coronavirus ward and move its patients to another location after the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease was found in the water system.

A routine check found the water was contaminated with the bacteria, the adjacent Beilinson Hospital said in a statement Monday.

“None of the patients showed symptoms of the disease,” the statement said.

There were six patients in the Hasharon ward at the time, and they were all moved to the coronavirus department at Beilinson, which in September opened an underground emergency facility that was turned into a virus ward.

The statement noted that water contamination tests are conducted on a regular basis at all of Israel’s hospitals.

Hasharon and Beilinson, though located at separate sites, are both part of the Rabin Medical Complex, and the distance between them is a short drive.

Legionnaires’ disease is usually spread by breathing in mist that contains the Legionella bacteria. There is no vaccine.

Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains, and headaches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur in some cases.

The symptoms normally appear several days after infection. Full recovery may take several weeks.

In March, Hasharon became Israel’s first hospital fully dedicated to treating coronavirus patients. All of the patients at the 200-bed facility were moved to other hospitals and the 1,400-strong staff received training in treating coronavirus patients and self-protection against infection with the disease.

After operating as a coronavirus hospital for several months, Hasharon eventually returned to its regular operations while maintaining a virus ward, a hospital spokesperson told The Times of Israel.

As Israel experienced a second wave of virus infections that strained the capacity of medical centers, two major hospitals in September opened their underground shelter emergency facilities for the treatment of virus patients. In addition to Beilinson, the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa also moved its coronavirus treatment center into an underground location.

The Rambam underground facility was originally built to serve as a rocket-proof hospital after Haifa was bombarded with rockets from Lebanon during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Israel began a national lockdown on September 18 that succeeded in dramatically reducing virus infection rates and the number of active patients, though it paralyzed the economy. The government has begun a gradual easing of some of the restrictions, in contrast with the rapid lifting of the first lockdown earlier this year that was blamed for the virus’s resurgence.

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