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Midwest Learning Center finds Legionella bacteria in water system

Recently, an employee working at Midwest Learning Center was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. The school is asking staff and students’ families to watch for symptoms. 

Update: Farmington R-7 Superintendent Matt Ruble reported the employee who had contracted Legionnaire's disease from the Midwest Learning Center's air conditioning unit-- which has since been remediated-- is doing well and has returned to work.

Recently, an employee working at Midwest Learning Center was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, according to a press release from the Farmington R-7 School District. The disease is a form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. The school is asking staff and students’ families to watch for symptoms. 

According to this morning's press release, the school district sought the services of a water management consultant Jaytech Inc., and testing showed Legionella bacteria was present in the air conditioning system sampled outside the building.

District Superintendent Matt Ruble indicated in a prepared statement that the district’s response was swift.

"The safety of our students and staff are always a top priority,” he said. “When we were notified of the issue at the recently-acquired Midwest Learning Center building, we notified the health department and worked with them to take immediate steps to treat the existing system.  We have also put safeguards in place to ensure that our students and staff will remain safe in the future.”

Midwest Learning Center added chlorine and descaler chemicals to the facility’s water system from Sept. 4-10 to kill Legionella in the system, according to the release. The bacteria was located in a reservoir of water used only for the air conditioning system and not used in the building’s main plumbing system.

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As a precaution, the facility’s entire water system is now undergoing follow-up testing to ensure the control measures were effective, an official said. Those potentially exposed to the disease have already been notified by the Farmington R-7 School District.

The release asks anyone who exhibits symptoms of pneumonia within two weeks of spending time at Midwest Learning Center or being exposed to water from the facility’s water system, to seek medical attention right away. Legionnaire symptoms typically include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, headaches, confusion, nausea, or diarrhea.

“Ask your doctor to test you with both a urine test and a respiratory culture. If you test positive, ask your doctor to report your illness to your local health department or DHSS as soon as possible,” the release reads.

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia acquired by breathing in water droplets containing Legionella bacteria. Risk is generally greater if you are 50 years or older, smoke cigarettes, or have certain medical conditions, such as a weakened immune system. In general, people do not spread Legionnaires’ disease to other people.

The administration will continue working with DHSS in taking proactive measures to protect the health of those at the school, the release reads. Additional information on Legionella is available from the CDC website at: https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/index.html. Board of Education

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Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at shaas@dailyjournalonline.com.

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