According to news reports, five cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been confirmed in workers of a shredding facility in Owego, New York. The cases stretch back to 2009.
Again according to news reports, the owner of the facility was originally unaware that his workers were ill with Legionnaires’ disease, mistaking its first appearance for the flu. Once more workers fell ill he contacted officials from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), who conducted an on-site inspection on June 1 and 2, 2011. At this time, officials took note of several pools of standing water around the facility (stagnant water is an ideal breeding ground for legionella bacteria). Water samples were taken from the pools and tests revealed the presence of legionella.
Legionella bacteria were also found in water dripping from the shredder, which, according to the owner, was 15 years old, so “the water could have been sitting in there for a very long time.” A report prepared by NIOSH showed that those who tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease worked in or around standing water and/or with a moving conveyor in the picking facility, where legionella were also found.
NIOSH has made several recommendations for reducing the threat of legionella at the facility, including:
- that all standing water be eliminated;
- that workers wear protective respirators;
- that conveyors be disinfected with chlorine.
The owner of the facility began working to implement these recommendations following the last confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease in mid-July.