Wayne State tests for Legionnaires source

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
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Faculty Administration Building, Wayne State University

Detroit — Wayne State University is conducting tests in a building on campus after an employee was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease Saturday.

The university said Tuesday that the Faculty Administration Building, where the employee works, is unlikely to be the source of the disease, but they are awaiting test results. 

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Planning and Management and a faculty expert began initial inspections of the building to determine potential sources of the disease Tuesday morning, Michael Wright, WSU's chief of staff, said in a statement.  

"Samples still need to be tested for the legionella bacterium, but early indications are that the FAB infrastructure is unlikely to be the source," Wright said. 

As a precautionary measure, one of the rooftop air handling units that provides air to the building was shut down and cleaned, and all cooling towers proximate to the building are being evaluated to ensure they are operating properly and will be sampled for legionella, Wright said. 

Existing programs at WSU maintain water cooling towers with weekly monitoring that includes routine sampling for bacteria. The Faculty Administration Building will remain open during the testing. 

Legionnaires' disease is not spread through person-to-person contact in a public setting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it can be contracted by breathing in mist containing the freshwater-borne bacteria. 

Legionnaires' disease is often associated with large or complex water systems, like those found in hospitals, hotels and cruise ships, Wright said. The most likely sources of infection include water used for showering (potable water), cooling towers (parts of large air conditioning units), decorative fountains and hot tubs.

Symptoms typically begin two to 10 days after exposure and can include cough, fever, chills, muscle aches and, in rare cases, pneumonia.

"Again, it’s important to emphasize that Legionnaires' disease is not spread by person-to-person contact. We plan to review the HVAC system in FAB on Tuesday to determine if further investigation is warranted," Wright said.

There are no vaccines that can prevent Legionnaires’ disease. Contact your primary health provider if you experience symptoms. 

State Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon is facing involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office charges over a Legionella outbreak in Flint

The trial is underway to determine whether residents of Flint were informed of the 2014-15 Legionnaires' disease outbreak in a timely manner. 

State Medical Executive Eden Wells has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and lying to a special police agent and with obstruction of justice in regards to the Legionnaires’ outbreak that killed 12 people and sickened at least 79 others in Flint.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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