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3 Wayne State buildings test positive for Legionella

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Faculty Administration Building at Wayne State University.

Detroit — Wayne State University has identified cooling towers in three campus buildings that have tested positive for Legionella bacteria. 

The university notified the campus Wednesday evening, stating bathrooms in the Faculty Administration Building, Scott Hall and the Cohn Building have been identified as sources.

The university began conducting tests after an employee, who works in the Faculty Administration Building, was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease on May 29. The employee has been under the care of a doctor since. 

"... We immediately began testing potential sources of Legionella, the bacterium that causes the disease with the help of independent outside experts," according to the university statement. "... Remediation in those three towers began immediately this evening using the prescribed disinfection process."

Legionella was identified in a private bathroom in the Faculty Administration Building in a first-floor men's bathroom in Scott Hall next to room 1200, and in a men's bathroom next to room 118 in the Cohn Building. These bathrooms will be closed until they can be further evaluated. 

Testing will continue on campus, including potable water and experts are planned to return during the weekend to further sample. 

"Moving forward, we will work with the experts to re-evaluate our water treatment and monitoring protocols and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that this problem does not occur in the future," the university said. 

The Detroit Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have been alerted. 

Legionnaires' is spread through inhalation of water droplets that contains the bacterium, not through person-to-person contact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The university said while water leaks from rainwater are inconvenient and unsightly, they are unlikely to be a source of the disease. 

Legionnaires' is a form of pneumonia. Symptoms typically begin two to 10 days after exposure and can include cough, fever, chills, muscle aches and, in rare cases, pneumonia. It can be deadly.

There are no vaccines that can prevent Legionnaires’, but it is a treatable disease if diagnosed early.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_