04-08 SOW Attachment 08 - VHA Directive 1061.pdf


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Date Originally Posted
April 19, 2022, 11:56 a.m.
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Department of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Health Administration
Washington, DC 20420

VHA Directive 1061
Transmittal Sheet
August 13, 2014


1. REASON FOR ISSUE: This Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Directive addresses
the prevention of healthcare-associated Legionella Disease and Scald Injury from Potable Water
Distribution Systems in VHA buildings.

2. SUMMARY OF CONTENTS: This Directive establishes policy for the prevention and
control of healthcare-associated Legionella disease in VHA-owned buildings in which patients,
residents, or visitors stay overnight.


4. RESPONSIBLE OFFICE: The Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and
Management (10N) is responsible for the contents of this Directive. Questions related to the
engineering aspects of this Directive are to be directed to the Office of Capital Asset
Management, Engineering, and Support (10NA5) at 202-632-7900. Questions related to clinical
aspects and validation processes in this Directive are to be directed to the National Infectious
Diseases Service (10P4E) in the Office of Patient Care Services (10P4) at 513-246-0270.

5. RESCISSIONS: VHA Directive 2008-010, dated February 11, 2008, VHA Directive 2009-
009, dated February 25, 2009, and Information Letter 10-2013-006, dated May 3, 2013 are

6. RECERTIFICATION: This VHA Directive is scheduled for recertification on or before
the last working day of August 2019.

Carolyn M. Clancy, MD
Interim Under Secretary for Health

DISTRIBUTION: E-mailed to the VHA Publications Distribution List on 08/15/2014.

August 13, 2014



1. PURPOSE: This Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Directive establishes policy for the
prevention and control of healthcare-associated Legionella disease in VHA-owned buildings in
which patients, residents, or visitors stay overnight. These types of buildings include, but are not
limited to, acute care facilities, Community Living Centers (CLCs), domiciliaries, and Fisher
Houses and other temporary lodging facilities (e.g. “hoptels”). AUTHORITY: 38 U.S.C.
NOTE: This Directive was developed to address areas in healthcare with a recognized higher
risk for Legionella disease. It is anticipated that this Directive, and information gathered from its
implementation, will serve as a template for further prevention policy in other VHA healthcare
settings. Policy and guidance for full case investigations of confirmed or suspected healthcare-
associated Legionella disease is not encompassed within the scope of this Directive.


a. Legionella is a Gram-negative bacterium, which causes respiratory diseases collectively
referred to as legionellosis. Legionellosis includes Legionella pneumonia, traditionally known as
Legionnaires’ disease and hereafter abbreviated as “LD” for “Legionella disease”, and Pontiac
Fever, a self-limiting respiratory illness. Disease is primarily caused by Legionella
pneumophila; however, other species of Legionella can be pathogenic, particularly in transplant
and other immunocompromised or high risk patients. The bacteria, found naturally in water,
have been associated with disease from building water distribution systems. LD occurs after
inhalation or aspiration of contaminated water, followed by a general incubation period of 2 to
14 days. Legionella bacteria are not transmitted from person-to-person.

b. Health care facilities are included in the types of buildings that have been associated with

the transmission of Legionella to people. Cases of healthcare-associated LD (HCA LD) often
arise from exposure to Legionella bacteria in hospital potable water distribution systems. The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance document on the prevention of
healthcare-associated pneumonia defines laboratory-confirmed cases to be “definite” HCA LD if
a patient has spent equal to or greater than 10 days continuously in a healthcare facility prior to
the onset of LD, or “possible” HCA LD if a patient has spent 2 to 9 days in a healthcare facility
prior to the onset of LD. NOTE: In January 2014, the CDC National Center for Immunization
and Respiratory Diseases released an updated Legionellosis Case Report form, including
guidance on determining if the case was definitely or possibly associated with a healthcare
exposure. VHA Directive 1061 focuses on primary prevention activities for buildings where
patients, residents or visitors stay overnight; in the event of a LD case suspected to be associated
with any VHA building, case investigation and consideration of secondary prevention activities
would be appropriate.

c. Persons at increased risk for LD include the immunocompromised (due to, for example,
transplant, malignancy, renal disease, or diabetes), those over 50 years of age, those with chronic
lung disease, and smokers. However, LD cases reported in the medical literature indicate that
the disease can also occur in seemingly healthy individuals.


August 13, 2014

d. Given the various factors and complexities associated with LD (e.g., host susceptibility,
pathogen virulence, water distribution system configurations and conditions), 100% prevention
of LD is likely not possible. However, prevention and control practices can be implemented to
reduce the risk of exposing people to Legionella in building water distribution systems. The
Legionella prevention activities in this Directive involve assessing risks, monitoring water
quality and implementation of commensurate engineering controls to limit the growth of
Legionella. Use of engineering controls to limit Legionella growth includes ongoing monitoring
of implemented controls, validating that the control measures are effective at inhibiting
Legionella growth, and modifying implementation or type(s), as necessary. By focusing on
engineering controls, this Directive can be viewed as a horizontal intervention that can improve
the overall microbiological quality of facility water, not just the inhibition of Legionella growth.

e. Legionella growth in building potable water distribution systems is primarily suppressed

by the implementation of engineering controls such as maintenance of appropriate water
temperatures or biocide (e.g. residual oxidant) levels. Application of more than one control may
be necessary for the successful inhibition of Legionella growth.

(1) Maintenance of Appropriate Water Temperatures in Building Water Distribution


(a) Water temperatures at 124 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) (51.1 degrees Celsius (°C)) or higher

are necessary to inhibit Legionella growth in hot water systems.

1. For most adult individuals, 110°F at the water outlet (e.g., sink tap, showerhead) will

minimize the risk of scalding and is consistent with the plumbing code adopted by the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for VHA buildings. At 117°F the risk of scalding
increases significantly. At 140°F, second degree burns may occur after only 3 seconds of
exposure. Some people, either due to illness, disabilities, extremes of age or side effects of
medication, may be less sensitive to hot water temperatures or have impaired or reduced
reactions and thus are at an increased risk for tissue damage caused by extended exposure to hot

2. It is not possible to maintain water temperatures at the outlet that kill Legionella
bacteria and simultaneously eliminate the possibility of scald injury in persons partially or fully
insensitive to hot water temperature or having delayed or impaired response capabilities. The
water temperature and accompanying safety requirements in this Directive address the risk of
inhalation or aspiration of live Legionella bacteria while minimizing the risk of scald injury from
exposure to domestic hot water.

(b) Cold water systems (temperature at 67°F (19.4°C) or lower) tend to be too cold to foster

growth of Legionella. Cold water in piping and fixtures can reach ambient environmental
temperatures exceeding 68°F (20°C) during prolonged periods of low flow or non-use. Use of
piping system insulation, automatic drain devices, and recirculation to limit the rate and duration
of an increase in cold water temperature in combination with appropriate biocide levels can be
effective at preventing Legionella growth.

August 13, 2014


(2) Maintenance of Biocide at a Recommended Level for Legionella Control.

(a) Minimum concentrations of various biocides (e.g. oxidizing agents such as chlorine) can
inhibit the growth of Legionella in building potable water distribution systems. The use of one
or more installed systemic water treatment system(s) may be necessary to supplement any
residual disinfectant present in incoming water (from municipal or central plant sources).
NOTE: The United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates contaminant
levels and disinfectant treatment for use under the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. §§300f, et
seq.). U.S. EPA delegates primacy to States for the regulation and enforcement of the Act within
individual State boundaries if the standards se… Show All