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Manhattanville Students, Staff Warned After Positive Legionella Test

Manhattanville College’ is taking precautions against the spread of Legionnaires' Disease on its Purchase campus. Legionella bacteria was detected in a large water chiller between Benziger Hall and a parking lot, which is near Reid Castle.
Manhattanville College’ is taking precautions against the spread of Legionnaires' Disease on its Purchase campus. Legionella bacteria was detected in a large water chiller between Benziger Hall and a parking lot, which is near Reid Castle. Photo Credit: Contributed

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Students at Manhattanville College were warned late Tuesday that there was a positive test for Legionella, the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' Disease, in a large water chiller on campus.

No one has reported symptoms directly related to airborne exposure to the rare but highly contagious bacteria, college officials said. But students have come down with the seasonal flu -- which has symptoms similar to those exhibited in early stages of Legionnaires' Disease.

The equipment, situated between Benziger Hall and the parking lot, was immediately shut down, and is due to be cleaned on Thursday, according to college President Jon C. Strauss.

Strauss, in a campus-wide email, said no one has reported symptoms related to Legionnaires' Disease, but that extra precautions are being taken to eliminate the risk.

Here is the full text of Strauss' health warning that was issued via student email at 5:11 p.m., Tuesday:

"We were notified today by the company that cleans and inspects our one large water chiller on the lawn between Benziger Hall and the parking lot of a positive test for Legionella, the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' Disease. The chiller was shut down immediately and we have scheduled a complete cleaning and disinfecting for Thursday, October 1 - the earliest available time," Strauss wrote.

"Legionnaires' Disease can cause symptoms similar to flu or pneumonia such as fever, muscle aches, chills, cough, and shortness of breath. At the same time, the campus is in the middle of flu season and literally hundreds of cases with flu like symptoms have been reported to the College Health Center in the last week and all have tested negative for Legionella bacteria. We have no reported instances of Legionnaires' Disease," Strauss wrote.

"So, while Legionella bacteria have been found inside the chiller, there are no known infections and no bacteria have been detected outside the chiller. Legionella bacteria can only be transmitted via air – personal contact with an infected person alone will not transmit the disease. For now, any persons experiencing flu or pneumonia symptoms should contact Kristen Donohue-Gonzalez, Director of the College Health Center in Spellman Hall, for testing,'' Strauss advised.

"People who have concerns for their susceptibility should avoid the proximity of the chiller until after the cleaning process has been completed. All data suggests, however, that no one is in imminent danger of infection and it is important not to overreact. Those of us in the Administration who live on campus are in no way concerned for our safety and we expect to conduct business as usual during the next two days of scheduled Trustee meetings,'' Strauss added.

"The Office of the President will update the campus community regularly," Strauss concluded.

Here is a recent Daily Voice report about other recent detection of Legionnaires' Disease in the Bronx, and in Yonkers.

Facts and updates about the disease and its symptoms, as reported by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, can be found online here.

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