Admittedly, I can be cheeky and without a doubt have a rather odd sense of humour - just ask those involved in what I refer to as "social experiments"! Apparently, to some substituting decaf coffee in the morning is not shall we say a laughing matter?! Similarly, the topics of the Talk Clean To Me blog do not often leave much wiggle room for humour, after all HAIs cause infections and can lead to death and that's no laughing matter.
However, there are times when an infection caused by a bug can be downright comical. Case in point is an article I came across over the weekend "Legionnaires' bacteria shuts down Dartmouth PD". I'm not downplaying Legionella and its ability to cause outbreaks. However, Legionnaires’ disease is not a common disease, and the risk of getting it is generally quite low in part due to the fact that it cannot spread from one person to another. In fact, if 100 people are exposed to Legionella, fewer than 5 of them will get Legionnaire’s disease. From a risk perspective, people are at greater risk of developing the disease if over 40 years of age (crap..), if they smoke, if they are alcoholics, if they have chronic lung disease (does asthma count?), kidney disease, diabetes or have weakened immune systems.
So, let's go back to Dartmouth's Police Station. A single officer got sick sometime in February. Tests showed that the officer had Legionnaires' disease. In determining where the infection was picked up from the station was checked and low and behold Legionella was found in the department's hot water system. As a result out of "an abundance of caution," officials decided to close down the building as they want to make sure everyone is safe because the employees deserve a safe work environment.
Let's do a quick review of the situation. A total of 82 employees, including 67 police officers work out of the police station. For simplicity sake, I am going to assume all 82 employees are police officers and apply the statistics I found on age distribution of police officers. This would give us 6.7 people under 24 yrs of age, 56 between 25 and 44, 19 between 45 and 65 and 0.2 of a person who is older than 65. Ignoring health conditions of the officers (we do not need to get into stereotyping) and simply focus on age based on the risk for acquiring Legionaries disease only those 40 years and up should be concerned. I'm going to assume of the 56.1 people in the 25 to 44 age range, that a third or 16.8 people are above 40. So, that would give us a total of 36.03 people that could be at risk for acquiring Legionnaire's disease, but don't forget that for every 100 people less than 5 will be affected. So, I think we could be safe to say that their 1 illness is about what they can or could expect!
Certainly, this highlights there is an obvious need for a preventative maintenance program for the police station's water supply, but does anyone else find the fact that this hit the news comical? A police station shuts down out of caution to protect their staff when a single officer became ill with a bug that DOES NOT transmit from person to person when almost 100,000 people die each year from HAIs and a further 1.7 Million people are infected?
People get infected every day in hospitals due to HAIs. People die every day in hospitals due to HAIs. Why then are senior hospital officials not shutting their doors to ensure patients and staff are kept safe? Do healthcare workers not deserve a safe work environment? Do patients not deserve safe healthcare? If a police department is willing to do everything they can to remediate the problem before we go back in, why can healthcare not do the same?