Thursday, March 15, 2001

2 in Cleveland contract Legionnaires' disease

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — Health investigators checked water outlets at a Ford Motor Co. plant Wednesday for the origin of two cases of Legionnaires' disease among employees, but the source was not identified, the county health commissioner said.

        Investigators looked at ice machines, shower stalls and other water outlets, said Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Timothy Horgan.

        Ford officials said the auto maker was cooperating.

        Water coolers were turned off in the plant, showers were closed and bottled water was offered to employees.

        Mr. Horgan emphasized that the disease source could be from within the plant or from another location.

        Concern among the 2,500 employees at Ford's Cleveland Casting Plant prompted numerous calls by people with coldlike symptoms worried about Legionnaires' disease, Mr. Horgan said.

        All were given the same advice, Mr. Horgan said — see your doctor.

        The Legionnaires' victims were hospitalized at the Cleveland Clinic and the Southwest General Health Center in suburban Middleburg Heights. One was in serious condition and the other was improving, Mr. Horgan said.

        The health agency asked regional hospitals to report any pneumonia-like cases that may be Legionnaires' victims, Mr. Horgan said.

        Legionnaires' disease, first identified when an outbreak occurred during the 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia, is caused by bacteria that can be inhaled when water is released into the air through air conditioners, steam or other means.

        The disease does not spread from person to person. Symptoms include high fever, cough and shortness of breath.

        Six people died of Legionnaires' disease last year in Ohio. The state has averaged about 115 cases annually since 1997.


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