Saturday, April 03, 1999

Legionnaires' risk closes post office

Trace of bacterium found in Milford

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The U.S. Postal Service shut down the Milford post office on Friday after testing revealed traces of the bacterium that causes Legionnaires' disease.

        A leaky roof has plagued the building and the postal employees since January. A preliminary report found the bacterium, Legionnella pneumophila, in standing water in buckets used to catch the drips.

        Employees and customers of the branch were instructed to watch for the flu-like symptoms of the sometimes fatal disease and to get tested if the symptoms occurred, said Bonnie Manies, a postal service spokeswoman. The symptoms — fever, chills, cough, muscle aches and loss of appetite — should appear within 10 days of exposure.

        Only nine employees remained in the branch office before it was closed early Friday afternoon. The postal service relocated Milford's 30 letter carriers to the Batavia post office in March because the leaking roof was disrupting the postal work. The public continued to use the post office to buy stamps and collect post office box mail.

        “The risk of exposure is extremely small for employees who have worked there over the last several days and virtually nonexistent for customers who have frequented the facility,” Dr. Jeffrey Smith, associate medical director for the postal service, said Friday in a statement.

        The postal service has consulted with local health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health throughout this year as efforts to patch the roof repeatedly failed.

        A new Milford post office has been under construction since February at Interstate 275 and Ohio 28.

        The bacterium is found naturally in soil and standing water. Legionellosis can be caused when the bacterium is inhaled through aerosols of water — such as mists from a heating and cooling system — and cannot be contracted by drinking water or person-to-person contact.


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