No charges in Pa. VA hospital Legionnaires’ case

PITTSBURGH (AP) — No criminal charges will be filed in connection with an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that killed five patients at a local Veterans Affairs hospital, federal authorities said Thursday.

A nine-month investigation that included 30 interviews and an analysis of more than 250,000 emails and other documents turned up no evidence of obstruction or false statements by VA officials or employees, U.S. Attorney David Hickton said.

“Our investigation revealed no basis for charging any individual or any entity with a federal crime,” Hickton said in a statement.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused when water tainted with a certain bacteria is inhaled into the lungs. It can lead to pneumonia.

At least five patients died and 21 were sickened from water that wasn’t properly treated at a hospital in Pittsburgh’s Oakland section between February 2011 and November 2012.

A hospital spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

At a congressional hearing in September, VA Under Secretary for Health Robert A. Petzel said the problems in Pittsburgh changed how the agency deals with the issue. He said the VA has changed the water treatment system that’s used to prevent Legionella bacteria and has undertaken a major review of safety issues.

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