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Family of man who got Legionnaires at UW Hospital is suing

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The family of a leukemia patient who contracted Legionnaires’ disease at UW Hospital in 2018 has filed a lawsuit seeking damages in his death.

Siblings of 66-year-old Dennis Frye filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court alleging the hospital was negligent because its water supply was contaminated.

Hospital officials announced the outbreak in November 2018, saying the problem appeared to be the result of reduced water flow during times when demand was low. That can make the water system more vulnerable to infectious bacteria, they said.

According to the lawsuit filed this week, Frye developed signs of pneumonia after he spent about a month in the hospital for a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukemia. He was found to have contracted Legionnaires’ disease and was twice re-admitted to the hospital before he died in January 2019, the State Journal reported.

He was one of 14 patients who contracted Legionnaires’ disease with three deaths of people who had other life-limiting conditions.

UW Health spokesperson Emily Kumlien said Wednesday the hospital has taken steps to address the contamination since that outbreak, including extensively chlorinating its water system and increasing monitoring for the bacteria that causes the disease.

“We have a robust and effective water management program in place for our hospitals and clinics and have had no further legionella issues since November 2018,” Kumlien said.

The Frye family is seeking damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering and loss of companionship.

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