FAB employee diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. Building being checked as a potential source

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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

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