Campus messages

July 26, 2018, 4:05 p.m. ET Update

The university's ongoing testing program has identified cooling towers on four buildings with detectable legionella. They are: Shapero Hall, Scott Hall, the Applebaum Building and Cohn. Proactive remediation efforts are underway.

Shapero is being given a chemical shock treatment tonight (Thursday). It will not have air conditioning available until its tower can be further cleaned by our professional service contractor and then shocked for another 24 hours. It is estimated air conditioning will be turned back on in the hall on Saturday.

Cohn's cooling tower is also being shocked tonight. It will be placed back in to service right away, but will be taken offline again on Monday for further cleaning, to be shocked again, and the cooling tower restarted on Monday night.

Scott Hall has four large cooling towers that can be systematically isolated and cleaned while the others remain in service. The towers were shocked earlier this week, and cleaning of each individual tower will begin on Friday. This remediation will take several days and will result in reduced cooling capacity in the building until the towers are returned to full service.

Applebaum has two large cooling towers that can also be independently isolated for cleaning allowing for partial air conditioning service while the other is cleaned. Both towers were shocked earlier this week. Cleaning of the towers will start on Saturday and should be completed on Monday.

We apologize for any inconvenience or discomfort; however, these actions are being taken to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone on campus.


July 16, 2018, 3:42 p.m. ET

Dear campus community,

As you may know from our prior communications, we have been undergoing an extensive water-testing program across campus since becoming aware of an employee with Legionnaires' disease. While the majority of our tests have shown safe or nondetectable levels of legionella, areas that tested positive have been under remediation (i.e., plumbing and water management changes to eliminate or mitigate Legionella). While most of the remediation has been completed, some projects require taking rooftop cooling towers out of service temporarily, which affects air conditioning in those buildings.

In the case of the Towers Residence Suites, we have decided to replace the rooftop cooling tower, which will require several more weeks before the building will be reoccupied. Today, we received preliminary test results for the rooftop cooling tower of the Student Center Building, which also showed signs of Legionella, though at lower levels than the rooftop cooling tower on the Towers Residence Suites. Ordinarily, we would treat this level chemically and monitor results, but we are taking every precaution to ensure safety and have decided to take the unit out of service for several days to perform a combination of chemical shock treatments and industrial cleaning. Unfortunately, this will compromise the air conditioning while the unit is out of service in some areas of the building, particularly the upper floors.

The Student Center will remain open for events, and we apologize for any inconvenience or discomfort. Temporary cooling will be installed on the second floor and in the food court, and other areas in the building have independent cooling. Permanent occupants of the building will be notified by their management regarding any adjustments in work scheduling based on building temperatures.

As you know, the safety of our university community and guests is always our top priority, and we continue to coordinate with the city and state health departments as we work to eliminate the risk of Legionella on our campus. In the meantime, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service noted recently that Michigan was experiencing an increase in Legionellosis across the state. We hope the learning we accumulate and share can help address this situation now and in the future. 

Regards,

Michael G. Wright
Vice President for Communications and Chief of Staff


July 2, 2018, 3:38 p.m. ET

Dear campus community,

We recently learned that two employees of a contracting firm working on construction of the new Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. The health departments in Detroit and the counties in which the workers live have confirmed the cases. The individuals are currently receiving medical treatment.

As in all cases like this, it is difficult to determine with any certainty how and where the workers contracted the disease. However, our comprehensive plan of testing and remediation is continuing.

PathCon Laboratories, our outside legionella remediation experts, have tested and retested all the cooling towers on campus. With the exception of Towers Residential Suites, all of the cooling towers have low or non-detectable levels of legionella bacteria. The cooling tower on Towers Residential Suites will remain out of operation until we get consistently acceptable test results in that location. The Detroit Health Department will be reviewing all remediation plans and will approve our plans to put the cooling tower back online.

In the meantime, we encourage anyone who has symptoms of Legionnaires' disease to seek medical treatment immediately. The disease is easily treatable with antibiotics when caught early. Symptoms include coughing, fever, aches and pains, chills and occasionally nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. You should be especially vigilant if you are 50 or older; if you smoke or are a former smoker; or if you have chronic liver or kidney disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system.

We will continue to update the campus community.

Sincerely,

Michael Wright
Vice President of Marketing and Communications and Chief of Staff


July 1, 2018, 12:04 p.m. ET

PathCon Laboratories has tested, and retested when necessary, all of the cooling towers on campus. With the exception of the Towers Residential Suites, all of the cooling towers have extremely low or non-detectable levels of Legionella bacterium. The cooling tower on the Towers Residential Suites will remain shut down until we receive results confirming non-detectable levels. As a result, we remain unable to provide air conditioning in that building. Guests scheduled to stay in the Towers in the meantime are being provided other accommodations. The university is working in coordination with the Detroit Health Department, which is monitoring our remediation efforts and test results.   


June 29, 2018, 3:32 p.m. ET

Preliminary verbal results from last week's testing of the cooling towers in the Towers Residential Suite indicate elevated levels of Legionella bacterium. The remediation team is already working on it. The plan is to enhance the remediation protocol based on advice from our outside experts and retest the cooling tower. We'll continue to refine our remediation process until we get consistently acceptable results.

Because the fans on the cooling towers have been shut off during the remediation process, air conditioning will not be available in the Towers until early Saturday evening. Air-conditioned spaces are available in the adjacent student center.


June 27, 2018, 3:56 p.m. ET

On June 27, Wayne State received final results for water samples collected from campus June 9-14.

The majority of samples had non-detectable levels, however, a number of locations (in the chart below) had low or elevated levels in potable water and/or cooling tower sources. The university is taking action to remediate, where appropriate, based on recommendations from its outside experts and industry best practices.

Regular follow-up testing will continue until the university is confident that an effective, long-term water management program is in place. Periodic testing to verify the new protocols are effective will remain ongoing.

There remains no conclusive evidence that the disease was transmitted from campus to the employee diagnosed with Legonnaires' disease, and we have not had any additional reports of Legionnaires' disease from anyone on campus.


June 19, 2018, 6:19 p.m. ET

On June 19, Wayne State received additional preliminary results from its independent legionella experts, PathCon Laboratories. While the majority of samples had non-detectable levels, several locations (in the chart below) indicated elevated levels in potable water sources. Based on recommendations from its outside experts, the university is taking immediate, preventative action to remediate these locations while awaiting final results.  


June 18, 2018, 4:41 p.m. ET

As you recall, a Wayne State employee was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease in late May. The employee is recovering and is back to work. At the time of the employee's diagnosis, we began testing a number of campus buildings in an attempt to identify potential sources of the bacterium that can cause the disease. Although we do not have conclusive evidence that the disease was transmitted from campus, our preliminary results identified legionella in several buildings and we began remediation procedures immediately.

It is important to remember that legionella is a naturally occurring bacterium that exists in lakes, rivers and other water sources, and only becomes dangerous in high concentrations that become aerosolized and are breathed into the lungs. The concentration that is considered dangerous depends on many variables, including the amount and type of exposure and the health of the individual exposed.

With the help of an outside company of experts that specialize in the identification, prevention and remediation of legionella, we are conducting a comprehensive, risk-based approach to sampling. We are still in the process of collecting samples, and it takes seven to 10 days from when a sample is taken to receive results. We are coordinating this work with the Detroit Department of Health and State public health officials. In the meantime, it's important to emphasize the following:

  • We have not had any additional reports of Legionnaires' disease from anyone on campus.
  • Legionella bacteria are commonly found in the building plumbing. It is anticipated we will find it at trace levels in some locations. The presence of legionella at trace levels does not typically pose a risk to human health.
  • Legionnaires' disease is not spread through person-to-person contact, nor is it contracted by drinking water.
  • Individuals without known risk factors are not as susceptible to contracting the disease. Risk factors include being 50 years of age or older, a smoker or former smoker, having diabetes, chronic lung, kidney or liver disease or a compromised immune system.
  • Symptoms of the disease may include cough, fever, chills, muscle pain, shortness of breath and headaches. In some cases, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may occur. See your primary care physician if you have any of these symptoms.

Our outside experts - PathCon Laboratories – will soon complete the initial sample collection process. Additional samples will be collected as needed to investigate and remediate identified issues, and verify that corrective actions are effective.

Samples are sent for analysis and the results will be posted in the table below, which will be updated weekly. Those results will determine future courses of action. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.

The results received on June 14, 2018 were from samples taken by PathCon on May 31 and June 1.

The cooling towers (part of a building's HVAC system used to transfer heat from the building to outdoors) that tested positive were addressed with either a "shock" treatment of chemicals, much like swimming pools are treated with chlorine, or an adjustment of the existing water treatment plan. Water in cooling towers is not the same water that you drink; the system is isolated. Air from cooling towers is directed away from the building, not into the building.

The potable, or drinkable water sources, that had detectable levels of legionella were immediately taken out of service while the systems were flushed, the hot water temperatures were increased, and plumbing system components were cleaned, sanitized, or replaced, as needed.

The men's bathroom in the Cohn Building is now open.

The men's bathroom in Scott Hall was re-opened temporarily, but had to be closed again when a valve on a hot water tank failed. The valve has been replaced and the bathroom is expected to re-open on June 19.

The private bathroom in FAB remains out of service until its hot water tank can be replaced.


June 14, 2018 - 11:47 a.m. ET

To the School of Medicine Community:

The first-floor men's bathroom in Scott Hall where earlier tests identified traces of legionella bacteria has been remediated and deemed safe for use.

Experts contracted by the university conducted further testing and WSU's Department of Facilities, Planning & Management addressed the issue during the weekend and earlier this week. They will conduct further monitoring of the room as a precaution.

The university continues to monitor and address other sites on the main campus where Legionella was identified.

All of these tests were conducted after a single university employee who works in the Faculty Administration Building was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. That person is recovering and has returned to work. No other person on the campus has been diagnosed with the disease and there is no conclusive evidence that the disease was transmitted from campus.

I again want to assure you that legionella, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires' disease, is a relatively common bacteria that poses very little risk to healthy people.

Legionnaires' disease cannot be spread from person to person. Nor can you acquire the disease from drinking water.

A form of pneumonia that is spread through inhalation of water droplets that contain the bacterium, Legionnaires' disease is treatable if diagnosed early. The vast majority of individuals are not at risk. Older people with certain pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems are at greater risk, but even in those cases the chances of contracting the disease are slim.

Jack D. Sobel, M.D.
Dean
Distinguished Professor
Wayne State University School of Medicine


June 13, 2018 - 2:54 p.m. ET

Update on testing of campus buildings

As you recall, a Wayne State employee was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease late last month. The employee is recovering and is back to work. At the time of the employee's diagnosis, we began testing a number of campus buildings in an attempt to identify potential sources of the bacterium that can cause the disease. Although we do not have conclusive evidence that the disease was transmitted from campus, our preliminary results identified legionella in several buildings and we began remediation procedures immediately. It is important to remember that legionella is a naturally occurring bacterium that exists in lakes, rivers and other water sources, and only becomes dangerous in high concentrations that become aerosolized and are breathed into the lungs. The concentration that is considered dangerous depends on many variables, including the amount and type of exposure and the health of the individual exposed.

With the help of an outside company of experts that specialize in the identification, prevention and remediation of legionella, we are conducting a comprehensive, risk-based approach to sampling. We are still in the process of collecting samples, and it will be seven to 10 days before we get full results back. We are coordinating this work with the Detroit Department of Health and State public health officials. In the meantime, it's important to emphasize the following:

  • We have not had any additional reports of Legionnaires' disease from anyone on campus.
  • Legionella bacteria are commonly found in the building plumbing. It is anticipated we will find it at trace levels in some locations. The presence of legionella at trace levels does not typically pose a risk to human health.
  • Legionnaires' disease is not spread through person-to-person contact, nor is it contracted by drinking water.
  • Individuals without known risk factors are not as susceptible to contracting the disease. Risk factors include being 50 years of age or older, a smoker or former smoker, having diabetes, chronic lung, kidney or liver disease or a compromised immune system.
  • Symptoms of the disease may include cough, fever, chills, muscle pain, shortness of breath and headaches. In some cases, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may occur. See your primary care physician if you have any of these symptoms.

Our outside experts - PathCon Laboratories - will soon complete the sample collection process.

Those samples will be sent for analysis and we anticipate final results in about 10 days. Those results will determine future courses of action. We are in the process of posting sampling results at https://wayne.edu/legionnaires-testing/. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.


June 7, 2018 - 4:17 p.m. ET

To the School of Medicine Community:

Many of you have expressed concern about the university report that tests have identified traces of legionella bacteria found in the first-floor men's bathroom near Conference Room 1200 in Scott Hall.

My expertise is in infectious diseases. I want to assure you that legionella, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires' disease, is a relatively common bacteria that poses very little risk to healthy people. While we are exercising caution, you should not be alarmed.

Legionnaires' disease cannot be spread from person to person. Nor can you acquire the disease from drinking water.

As a precaution, the lone bathroom in Scott Hall has been sealed as further testing continues.

Legionella was also identified in a private bathroom in the Faculty Administration Building on main campus and in a men's bathroom in the Cohn Building. Those bathrooms have also been closed for further evaluation.

Preliminary results indicated that the cooling towers in three campus buildings – the Purdy/Kresge Library, the College of Education Building and the Towers Residential Suites -- tested positive for legionella. Remediation in those towers began immediately.

As a result of these findings, the university will continue comprehensive testing across the campus. PathCon Laboratories, a leading legionella consulting group, will return to campus Saturday to continue testing every building that has a cooling tower. These independent consultants will also provide guidance and recommendations on the testing of potable water on campus.

All of these tests were conducted after a single university employee who works in the FAB building was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. That person is receiving treatment. No other person on the campus has been diagnosed with the disease.

Legionnaires' disease is a form of pneumonia that is spread through inhalation of water droplets that contain the bacterium. The disease is treatable if diagnosed early. The vast majority of individuals are not at risk. Older people with certain pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems are at greater risk, but even in those cases the chances of contracting the disease are slim.

To keep us abreast of this issue, the campus has developed a website containing the latest information and frequently asked questions about legionella. You can access that website here.

I fully understand your concern, but I urge you to remain calm and carry on with your duties, as I intend to do, as the experts address this issue.

Jack D. Sobel, M.D.
Dean
Distinguished Professor
Wayne State University School of Medicine


June 6, 2018 - 9:25 p.m. ET

Clarification added to include building names: Preliminary results have identified cooling towers on three campus buildings: The Towers Residential Suites, Purdy/Kresge Library and the College of Education Building, that have tested positive for legionella.


June 6, 2018 - 7:55 p.m. ET

To the Wayne State campus community:

In a May 29 communication we shared with you that an employee in the Faculty Administration Building (FAB) had been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. As we also shared, we immediately began testing potential sources of legionella, the bacterium that causes the disease with the help of independent outside experts. 

Preliminary results have identified cooling towers on three campus buildings that have tested positive for legionella. Remediation in those three towers began immediately this evening using the prescribed disinfection process.

Legionella was also identified in a private bathroom in FAB, 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. 

As a result of these findings, the university will continue comprehensive testing of campus, including potable water, to ensure all water sources are safe. The expert consultants will return to campus this weekend to continue sampling. 

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 has alerted the City of Detroit Health Department, with which we will coordinate closely moving forward. 

Wayne State is not aware of any additional Legionnaires' cases related to campus. In general, legionella bacteria do not spread from one person to another. People don't get Legionnaires' disease from drinking water. 

As indicated in our previous message, Legionnaires' is spread through inhalation of water droplets that contains the bacterium. 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. Common symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include cough, fever, chills and muscle aches. In some cases, pneumonia may develop. People at increased risk of contracting the disease are those 50 years or older; current or former smokers; people with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema); people with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy); people with cancer; and people with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.

Legionnaires' is a treatable disease if diagnosed early, so please contact your health care provider or primary care physician if you exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned above. 

For additional information, please review this U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fact Sheet. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.


May 29, 2018

To the Wayne State campus community:

Following up on our message over the weekend concerning an employee in the Faculty Administration Building (FAB) contracting Legionnaires' disease, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS), Facilities Planning and Management (FP&M) and a faculty expert this morning began initial inspections of the building to determine potential sources of the disease. Samples still need to be tested for the legionella bacterium, but early indications are that the FAB infrastructure is unlikely to be the source. The building remains open for business.

As a precautionary measure, one of the rooftop air handling units that provides air to the building is being shut down and cleaned, and all cooling towers proximate to FAB are being evaluated to ensure they are operating properly. They will be sampled for legionella. Existing programs at WSU maintain water cooling towers with weekly monitoring that includes routine sampling for bacteria.

We have fielded a number of inquiries since our initial communication. As indicated in the first message, Legionnaires' is spread through inhalation of water that contains the bacterium. While water leaks from rain water are inconvenient and unsightly, they are unlikely to be a source of the disease because this water would have to breed the bacterium and then be aerosolized by fans or heating/cooling systems for it to spread Legionnaire's.

Common symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include cough, fever, chills and muscle aches. In some cases, pneumonia may develop. People at increased risk of contracting the disease are those 50 years or older; current or former smokers; people with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema); people with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy); people with cancer; and people with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.

If you have symptoms like the ones mentioned above, please make an appointment with your primary health provider.

To be confident our community is safe from this disease, we will continue testing in the building as appropriate, and will consult with outside experts for their input. In the meantime, we will continue to update FAB residents regarding the results of the analysis. 

Thank you,
Michael Wright


May 26, 2018

Dear campus community,

A Wayne State University employee who works in the faculty administration building (FAB) has been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. The individual is under a doctor's care.

While it is very unlikely that this person contracted the disease from a campus source, through an abundance of caution we will check the building for a potential source.

Legionnaires' disease is not transmitted via person-to-person contact in a public setting. It is a freshwater-borne bacterium. It is often associated with large or complex water systems, like those found in hospitals, hotels and cruise ships. 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. People can get Legionnaire's disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.

Common symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include cough, fever, chills and muscle aches. In some cases, pneumonia may develop. People at increased risk of contracting the disease are those 50 years or older; current or former smokers; people with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema); people with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy); people with cancer; and people with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.

If you have symptoms like the ones mentioned above, please make an appointment with your primary health provider.

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. We will provide an update if any new developments arise.

Thank you.
Michael Wright