Legionnaires’ disease likely came through cooling system at St. Columbkille Parish

PARMA, Ohio-- The Cuyahoga County Board of Health released its final report into the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease linked to a Parma church.

There were 11 cases, including the death of a 93-year-old woman, centered around the St. Columbkille Parish in Parma over the summer. The health department said the only thing the patients had in common was attending the church.

Since the cooling system was shut down on July 19, there have been no new cases of Legionnaires' tied to St. Columbkille.

Even though samples from the cooling tower were negative for Legionella bacteria, health officials said they believe that's how the disease was spread.

"Historically, cooling towers have been established as a classical source of exposure in Legionella outbreaks. The investigation indicates that the design, operation, and location of the current cooling system at St. Columbkille church provided a significant risk and a very likely mode of transmission and pathway for exposure for the Legionnaires’ disease cases," the death department said.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health, along with the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, said the cooling tower should not be operated. The organizations also said the church needs a water management plan and an HVAC engineer to maintain it.

"St. Columbkille Parish is committed to the safety of its parishioners and all who may visit the parish. As such, the parish is grateful to the Board of Health for their guidance and recommendations. Going forward, the parish will continue to work closely with its consulting experts," the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said in a news release on Wednesday.

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