Legionnaire bacteria is still detected in building; Health official says it's 'not considered a threat'


Some of the bacteria that cause Legionnaire's disease survived a series of cleanings at a Towson office building, and state health officials are now deciding whether the building should be treated again.

Karen Stott, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Department of Health, said the 700 state and county employees who work at the Investment Building near the intersection of York and Dulaney Valley roads should not fear for their safety.

"It's still not considered a threat," Stott said. "The levels [of Legionella bacteria] are lower than what they were before the first treatment."

The water systems of the Investment Building were flushed with chlorine or heated earlier this month after a female worker contracted Legionnaire's disease, which is spread through bacteria contained in tiny water droplets that are breathed into the lungs.

The disease can cause pneumonia and flu-like symptoms, and is especially dangerous for the elderly or those with weak immune systems.

The test results from the building have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for a definitive answer on the strain of bacteria that has been found, said Lee Baylin, an attorney representing the building owners.

The building management released a short memo Saturday saying the Legionella bacteria was present. Offices were sparsely occupied that day, sparking concern among some workers yesterday that building officials were attempting to conceal facts.

James L. Clark, president of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, which represents many workers in the building, said his office was flooded with telephone calls from troubled employees.

Clark said county officials should release more detailed information to squelch rumors about the extent of the problem. "They've got to learn that they need to tell these employees everything," he said.

Baylin said the Saturday memo "caused a little more concern than it should have."

The bacteria remaining are at the lowest detectable levels, officials said. Baylin said the water systems would be re-treated if requested by the state Health Department.

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