The fall semester’s first Council of Organizations meeting, which took place on Tuesday, Oct. 27, played host to a presentation from West Chester University staff that gave a presentation on the case of Legionnaires’ disease that was found on campus this past summer.
Director of Environmental Health and Safety Gail Fellows discussed the history of the disease and gave the general known facts on it. Fellows stated that there has been a 217 percent increase in Legionnaire’s cases in the past decade, and that while 50 percent of building water systems have traces of the Legionella bacteria in them, the levels are almost never high enough to cause sickness. Fellows added that people under 50 years old are not considered at risk, most people who are exposed to it are not affected, and that the disease cannot be transmitted from person to person.
The disease became an issue for WCU during the July 4 weekend when an unnamed faculty member collapsed and was taken to the hospital. The faculty member later sent an email to their dean saying that they would not be able to teach for the rest of the summer.
The building that the faculty member was in did not have a cooling tower in it, which is often where legionella bacteria accumulate.
No bacteria were detected in the building, but other tests showed that nine of the 11 cooling towers around campus had higher than acceptable levels of the bacteria in them.
On July 29, the university was able to confirm that the faculty member had Legionnaires’ disease and sent out a health notice to students, faculty, and staff. The same day and the following day, the cooling towers were treated.
As a precaution, the hot water systems in residence halls and athletic facilities were heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and flushed. The hot water tank in Filano Hall was also replaced.
The university’s goal is to have a legionella bacteria reading of zero for every building. As such, any buildings that have a reading higher than that are still being treated.
Fellows said that a water management plan is being developed by the university to prevent any more cases of the disease in the future. Cooling towers will now be cleaned twice a year, rather than once a year, and all domestic hot water heaters will be flushed annually. Fellows said that the new water management plan will not affect students in on-campus housing.
SGA Vice President Justin Golden announced the dates for budget training, which range from Monday, Nov. 2 to Monday, Nov. 23. Every treasurer from every organization needs to attend one date if the organization receives a budget from SGA. Golden added that organization budgets for the 2016 fiscal year are due by Friday, Dec. 4.
SGA President Gary Prince announced an open forum with the board of directors will be held in Sykes Student Union. The date was not yet decided, but Prince said it would either be on Nov. 16 or 17.
Dylan Messerschmidt is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at DM837837@wcupa.edu. His Twitter is @DylanMesh.