More samples test negative for legionella at Parma church whose parishioners fell ill

PARMA, Ohio -- Additional tests from the church where several parishioners had confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease have come back negative for the presence of viable legionella. 

Last month, there were several 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. Results from tests conducted on the church's air conditioning system came back negative earlier this month.

According to a release from the Diocese of Cleveland, additional tests on samples from the building including the air handling units, a basement drinking fountain and hand sinks also came back negative for the presence of viable legionalla, the bacteria that causes the disease.

The tests did indicate the presence of dead legionella bacteria cells in the basement drinking fountain. The press release said, however, that "the Board of Health has explained that legionella can naturally occur in freshwater environments and that the drinking fountain may remain in service. "

As a proactive measure, the parish has already hired an engineering company to conduct a review of the air conditioning system. The system will remain out of service until any recommendations by the Board of Health are addressed.

"After consultation with the Board of Health, Mass and other parish activities continue to go on uninterrupted and plans are on track for the regularly scheduled opening of the school later this month," the release states.

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