Bacteria that causes Legionnaire's found at Wayne State

Image 1 of 3

Concern on the campus of Wayne State after the bacteria that causes Legionnaires Disease is found in buildings and bathrooms.

The discovery was made after an employee was diagnosed with the disease.

"I was a little bit worried from a public health perspective," said Deannah Byrd/post doctoral researcher at WSU.

Deannah Byrd is at Wayne State University conducting post-doctoral research. She said it was upsetting to receive a school notification about a campus employee being diagnosed with a severe form of pneumonia called Legionnaire's Disease. 

"I was thinking are we going to be exposed to it as well, so I was a little bit nervous and quite concerned," she said.

That diagnosis university officials say prompted the testing of areas on campus by expert consultants. That's when testing revealed some results came back positive for legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's Disease. 

"They tested 16 buildings on campus and we found on three buildings elevated levels of Legionella," said Michael Wright, Wayne State University.

Those buildings are The Towers Residence, the Purdy Kresge Library and the College of Education Building.    

"Even if they are doing this campus-wide testing, are we being exposed while they are doing this testing," Byrd said. "It's quite concerning even though it's summertime and there are not that many students on campus."

But campus officials say there is no need for alarm - just caution. Legionnaire's is spread when a person inhales water droplets that contain the bacteria.

Experts say that bacteria is often found in cooling towers,  so university officials say they are disinfecting them.

"We are acting overly cautious it is not something that healthy people should worry about," Wright said. "But we immediately went to those towers every remediated them with a shock treatment."

In fact, officials say they are staying ahead of this issue and expert consultants will be back on campus this weekend to conduct more testing. They will also work to ensure all water sources on campus are safe.

As university officials continue to look into this issue and more testing is conducted, students say they want the university to be transparent in the findings.

"I want to make sure that they sent something out and follow up and I'm hoping that they will continue to let us know," Byrd said.

University officials say they maintain transparency about this issue and all issues impacting the university community. They also say they have alerted local and state officials about the issue and will continue to do everything possible to keep the campus safe.

"We are not trying to hide anything, we want folks to know so if they have symptoms we can answer questions," said Wright. "You can see people are still  walking around the campus, we are not closing any buildings because the risk is very low."