Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Elliot Olsen has regained millions for clients harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires at one of these two Detroit locations, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Legionella returns to Wayne State

Wayne State University in Detroit has shut down the cooling tower in the Old Main building on campus after elevated levels of Legionella bacteria were identified during routine testing, university officials said.

There have been no reports of any illnesses at the Detroit location due to the bacteria, according to WSU spokesperson Matt Lockwood, but the towers are being temporarily shut down to prevent a possible outbreak.

“In the course of ongoing, routine testing, we discovered elevated levels of Legionella in the Old Main cooling tower,” William R. Decatur, vice president of finance and business operations, was quoted in a university-wide email. “When this occurs, university protocol dictates that the cooling towers are immediately taken off-line so they can be disinfected and cleaned.”

Detroit locations: Legionella issues last year

In late May 2018, a WSU employee was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, and a month later, in late June, two construction contractors working on campus apartments took ill with the pneumonia-like illness

Subsequent environmental testing detected the bacteria in three cooling towers and three bathrooms. Legionella were found in the cooling towers at the Towers Residential Suites, Purdy/Kresge Library, and the College of Education Building, as well as in bathrooms in the Faculty Administration Building, Scott Hall, and the Cohn Building.

Legionella found at Ford plant

Low levels of Legionella were found at Ford Motor Company’s Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit. The results were confirmed by Ford spokesperson Kelli Felker.

The company released the information after media reports surfaced that the car manufacturer sent letters to employees informing them of the discovery of the bacteria in three locations at the plant: two restrooms and the medical department.

Detroit locations: Statement from Ford officials

“We take the safety of our workforce very seriously. We regularly test for Legionella out of an abundance of caution, and (we) have a comprehensive, industry-leading, water-quality management process that includes steps to take if Legionella bacteria are found.

“The Ford protocol is more stringent than federal guidelines. Following that process, in each of those cases, we immediately disinfected the equipment where the bacteria were found. The level of Legionella detected in our recent sampling is very low and does not present a health risk to our workforce. We are not aware of any employees that have contracted the bacteria.”

As many as 6,000 employees work at the 600-acre site where the F-150 and F-150 Raptor pickup trucks are built. The Rouge is Ford’s largest single industrial complex. At its peak in the 1930s, more than 100,000 people worked at the complex.

In December 2017, a “low concentration” of bacteria was found in the cooling tower at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri, after an employee was confirmed with Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaires info

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Approximately one in 10 patients infected with Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia – will die from the infection.

Detroit locations: high-risk groups

Anyone can get the disease, but those with the highest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], most commonly bronchitis or emphysema)
  • people with weakened immune systems (those suffering from conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, or infected with HIV)
  • organ-transplant recipients (kidney, heart, etc.)
  • individuals following specific drug protocols (for instance, corticosteroids)

Even relatively healthy individuals have been known to contract the disease, although less typically.

Detroit locations: common symptoms

The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease look like other forms of pneumonia or even flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include the following:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleurisy or pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

(Note: There is also a mild form of Legionnaires’ disease called Pontiac fever, which can produce similar symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect the lungs, however, and symptoms usually manifest within two to five days.)

Detroit locations: Legionella sources

The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to numerous sources, such as:

  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • water systems, such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

People also can contract Legionnaires’ disease by the aspiration of contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. It’s also possible to contract Legionnaires’ disease from home plumbing systems, although the vast majority of outbreaks have occurred in large buildings because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more quickly.