Initial samples negative for legionella at Parma church; more tests underway

PARMA, Ohio -- Results from tests conducted on a church's air conditioning system following a several confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease among the parish have come back negative.

There have been seven confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease among the community at St. Columbkille Parish in Parma. One 93-year-old woman passed away after her diagnosis.

The board of health began environmental testing on the church premises. Out of an abundance of caution, the church was asked to turn off its air conditioning.

According to release issued Wednesday by the Diocese of Cleveland, the results of water testing in the church building air conditioning cooling tower were negative for legionalla bacteria contamination.

The results of testing on the church's potable water are expected soon.

According to the release, while there were no concerns about legionella bacteria in the parish school building, an inspection was completed July 31 as a precaution.

"The inspection revealed no significant issues generally and no concerns relating to legionella in the school building," according to the release.

It went on to say:

"St. Columbkille Parish is committed to ensuring the safety of its parishioners and all who may visit the parish.  As such, the parish continues to work closely with the Board of Health and its consulting experts.  Following the Board of Health’s recommendations, the air conditioning units in the church are off and will remain off until the parish is able to review and address any recommendations made by the Board of Health."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, legionella can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia; or a milder illness called Pontiac fever. The CDC says most people exposed to legionella do not get sick; however, people 50 years or older, current or former smokers, and people with a weakened immune system or chronic disease are at an increased risk.

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