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Two Contractors Working At Wayne State Diagnosed With Legionnaire's Disease

July 02, 2018 - 6:20 pm

DETROIT (WWJ) -- Two contractors working on the campus of Wayne State University have been diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease.

The two were working on construction at the Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments when they fell ill. .

Legionella, the bacterium that causes the disease, was detected in three cooling towers on campus and three bathrooms after someone fell ill in late May, but Wayne State spokesman Michael Wright says just one cooling tower at the Towers Residential Suites is now testing positive for significant levels Legionella bacterium.

“We never really know the exact cause, unless we can do some DNA fingerprinting, which takes a whole lot of stuff,” Wright told WWJ Newsradio 950. “We don’t know, but we feel like all of the clues point toward this cooling tower, which has been shut down.”

He says the two construction workers are receiving medical treatment, while the previous victim has recovered and is back to work.

Wright said PathCon Laboratories has done testing across the entire campus and they have seen "a lot of non-detectable or insignificant levels" of Legionella.

"It’s a very commonly occurring bacterium found in the water supplies," Wright said. "It’s found in lakes and streams, and that’s how it ends up in the water supply. But the elevation level of this particular tower seems to be where the problem lies.”

They can’t confirm how and why the workers came down with the disease, Wright said, but the disease is contracted through the air, not by drinking it.

“You can’t get it from water, it has to be aerosolized – think of a mist – and then breathed in," Wright said.

Wright says some people are more susceptible to the disease than others, including those with compromised immune systems, COPD, those who have or have had lung cancer, and heavy smokers, past or present.