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Parma church cleared in first round of testing for Legionnaires’ disease

August 1, 2018

Parma church cleared in first round of testing for Legionnaires’ disease

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The first test results from a Parma church linked to 11 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including the death of a Parma woman, came back negative. 

Health investigators are awaiting the results of further testing for legionella bacteria conducted at St. Columbkille Parish Roman Catholic Church in Parma, which are expected to be ready in the next week.

Between early June and mid-July, ten people were hospitalized and a 93-year-old woman died, according to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. All of those affected had connections to St. Columbkille on Broadview Road, a parish that serves about 3,000 households. 

The first round of samples testing for the bacteria were taken from the church’s cooling tower reservoir, a part building’s cooling system, on July 23. A second set of samples were taken July 26, at which time the Board of Health tested potable water sources within the church, such as water fountains and bathroom sinks and faucets. 

The St. Columbkille complex includes a chapel, rectory, credit union and elementary school. 

In a statement, the church said it continues to work closely with the Board of Health and allowed an inspection of its school July 31. That inspection “revealed no significant issues generally and no concerns relating to legionella in the school building,” the church said. 

“St. Columbkille Parish is committed to ensuring the safety of its parishioners and all who may visit the parish,” the church said. 

Since the disease cluster was first linked to St. Columbkille, the parish has turned off its air conditioning, upon a recommendation by the Board of Health. 

The Board of Health is not investigating other potential sources for the disease cluster at this time, according to Kevin Brennan, Board of Health communications officer. 

“We will continue to examine information as it becomes available to us,” Brennan said. 

The agency continues to work with the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the investigation. 

“As we receive additional information, we will be issuing a comprehensive list of recommendations to the church administration,” the Board of Health said in a press release. 

Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection often caused by inhaling legionella bacteria and doesn’t spread person to person. Those most at risk for contracting the illness are people over age 50, smokers, and those with chronic lung disease, cancer and otherwise weakened immune systems, according to the CDC. 

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