Towson workers warned of Legionnaires'

Disease is diagnosed after employee becomes ill

October 07, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County health director warned county and state employees at a Towson office building yesterday to watch for symptoms of Legionnaires' disease after a Health Department staffer contracted the disease.

In a memo from Dr. Michelle A. Leverett, about 700 county and state employees were notified that Legionnaires' disease, which could be spread through a building's water and ventilation systems, has been diagnosed in a worker in the Investment Building.

An environmental consultant will test the drinking water and the ventilation system in the 13-story building off York Road, said an attorney for the building's owner, A.M.G. Realty Partners.

Leverett said the worker tested positive during a recent visit to her doctor, but added that she is recovering. She emphasized that it is unknown whether the employee contracted the disease in the building.

She declined to identify the employee or where she works but said she suffered from other health problems that put her at risk for Legionnaires'.

The disease usually affects middle-age or older people, particularly those who smoke, have chronic lung problems or have immune systems weakened by cancer, diabetes, AIDS or kidney problems, say state and county health officials.

The environmental testing will be conducted by Clayton Environmental Consultants of Novi, Mich. A company spokesman said yesterday that workers will collect water samples, which could take seven to 10 days to analyze. He said the building's drinking water will be heated to 160 degrees to kill harmful bacteria.

Workers in the building said they want test results as soon as possible.

"We're very concerned about it," said Isabel Cumming, a lawyer in the state prosecutor's office, which has about a dozen workers in the building. "It's more than just some government workers affected here. This building is used by the public. Hundreds of people come in and out of here every day."

The building is visited by people seeking help from the state Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board, the county Departments of Health and Social Services, and the county offices of employment and training and community conservation, in addition to the prosecutor's office.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, coughing, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite, the memo said.

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