Media reports indicate that two workers at Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Detroit have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. In total, at least thirty-one individuals have become sick with respiratory infections associated with the outbreak, six of whom were hospitalized. Two of the six hospitalized patients received confirmed diagnoses of Legionnaires’ disease.
The outbreak has been traced to two buildings housing the Army’s Tank-automotive Armaments Command (TACOM), a prominent weapons lab with a mix of civilian and military employees. TACOM’s commander, Major General Kurt Stein told the Air Force Times that “a pattern of illness became evident July 19. By July 22, we determined the common factor was duty location so we removed the individuals from those areas and informed the workforce.”
Remediation efforts are under way, with air-conditioning units and the facility’s cooling tower being sanitized. Test results on the remediation process’s effectiveness are reportedly expected within the next ten days.
The possibility that the Selfridge Airbase outbreak originated in the facility’s cooling tower illustrates the fact that Legionnaires’ disease is not only spread through contaminated pools or spas. In fact, some of the largest Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks—including the first known outbreak in 1976 at Philadelphia’s Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, the 1985 outbreak at Stafford District Hospital in the UK, and the 2000 outbreak at a Melbourne, Australia aquarium—have been caused by contaminated cooling towers.
We’ll continue to update you on this case as it develops.