Test results released by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) have revealed that Legionella bacteria was present in the water system in the Rhodes State Office Tower before a state employee contracted Legionnaires disease.
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The building was tested for Legionella following the hospitalization of a DAS employee. The bacteria was found in three locations in the building. Only one area was cause for concern: the men’s basement shower.
Health officials have not yet announced the origin of the employees case of Legionnaires disease.
Over the weekend of Jan. 30-31, the hot-water system for the building was washed with chlorine in efforts to kill the bacteria.
This is not the first time Legionella has been found in the Rhodes Tower. The building has tested positive for the bacteria over the past three years. Just last summer, bacteria was found in the building. The water system was cleaned after the discovery.
Legionella can be transmitted through drinking water and by inhaling contaminated water vapor. A Legionella infection produces symptoms such as fatigue, fever and lung infections. The symptoms are often similar to pneumonia or the flu, making it difficult for victims to know if they have Legionnaires disease.
Knowingly Endangering Eemplyees
Employees working in the building did not know that a co-worker had contracted Legionnaires disease until media outlets reported it to the public.
The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the largest state employee union, has filed a grievance claiming that the states failure to notify workers of the situation knowingly endangered their safety and health.
The union wants to test employees in the building who were absent three or more days in the past month with symptoms associated with the flu or pneumonia to make sure that no one else has contracted the disease.
The union also seeks the appointment of a labor-management committee who will hold discussions as to how health concerns will be handled at the Rhodes Tower.