Three people working on the Wayne State Univesity campus in Detroit have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, according to campus official and the Detroit Health Department. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia that is spread when water droplets contaminated with Legionella bacteria are inhaled.

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Eric Hageman and Fred Pritzker
Attorneys Eric Hageman and Fred Pritzker

After an employee was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in May, the university hired PathCon Laboratories to find the problem and mitigate it. PathCon discovered Legionella bacteria in three cooling towers and three bathrooms in different buildings on the campus and has been working to get it under control, but last week two members of a contract crew working on a new apartment complex on campus were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

PathCon tests show that Legionella has been contained in all but one of the areas -the cooling tower of the Towers Residential Suites, according to a statement from Micahel Wright, the university’s chief of staff. It is unclear how and where the two new patients were exposed, he said.

How is Legionnaires’ Disease Spread?

Because Legionnaires’ disease is contracted when Legionella bacteria are inhaled, it is generally not transmitted through person-to-person contact. Common sources of outbreaks include hot tubs, fountains; and the cooling towers, plumbing or air-conditioning systems of large buildings.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include:

  • Cough
  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease usually develop within two weeks of exposure to bacteria and last about seven days. It is treated with antibiotics and patients often require hospitalization. People who are at elevated risk for Legionnaires’ disease include seniors and those with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems.

Anyone on the Wayne State campus who develops these symptoms should see a doctor immediately.

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