Legionella Information - Columbus

After receiving notification that a student living in Drackett Tower (Columbus campus) had been diagnosed with Legionella pneumonia, the university worked with the Wexner Medical Center, Columbus Public Health, Ohio Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and national Legionella consultant Tim Keane to test water in the residence hall. Results found:

  • Drinking fountains: no Legionella present. Drinking fountains are in the process of being returned to service. 
  • Showers: no Legionella present. 
  • Sinks: less than or 1 CFU/ml (colony forming units per milliliter) for Legionella. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines recommend remediation at a level of 10 CFU/ml or higher. In addition, CDC found no deficiencies in the operation and maintenance of the potable (drinking) water system. Although disinfection is not required by OSHA or the CDC based on the test results, the university elected to disinfect the Drackett Tower hot water system out of an abundance of caution. 
  • Rooftop cooling tower water system: 100 CFU/ml, the minimum level at which action is recommended. The university immediately disinfected the cooling tower following Cooling Technology Institute protocol. This system provides cooling for the closed loop air-conditioning system. There is no public exposure to this water in the residence hall. 

Based on the test results and additional examination, the consultant advised it is “not likely that the student was exposed to aerosol with sufficient concentrations of Legionella to cause illness.” 

Columbus Public Health has determined there is no outbreak. It reports 76 other cases of Legionella pneumonia in the city of Columbus in 2017 with no relationship to Drackett Tower. 

Only six of these 76 cases (less than 8 percent) were linked to outbreaks, none involving Ohio State. 

Health experts note that Legionella is widespread in the environment and can be found at low levels in many water systems. It is transmitted by breathing in contaminated aerosols and is not spread person-to-person. The university continues to follow all recommendations, which are well in excess of industry standards, from its health partners, medical experts and Legionella consultant.

If you have questions, please contact Ohio State’s Environmental Health and Safety at ehs@osu.edu