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Legionella discovered at SCI-Pittsburgh

| Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, 4:15 p.m.
SCI Pittsburgh
SCI Pittsburgh
Chad Dion Lassiter, professor at University of Pennsylvania, (left) and Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel listen to a music performance by inmates at SCI Pittsburgh.
Donald Gilliland | Trib Total Media
Chad Dion Lassiter, professor at University of Pennsylvania, (left) and Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel listen to a music performance by inmates at SCI Pittsburgh.

SCI-Pittsburgh at Woods Run discovered higher than acceptable levels of Legionella bacteria in its water cooling tower and its medical building Monday, state prison officials said.

The agency is working with a private contractor and the state Department of Health to eliminate the problem, said Secretary John Wetzel.

“The Department of Corrections has been confronted with this issue at various prisons over the past years,” he said. “We take this matter seriously and are being proactive in our response to the water test results.”

Legionella is not spread person-to-person, so isolation and quarantine are not necessary, the agency said. The department has increased water testing at the facility.

People typically contract Leigonnaire's by breathing in water droplets contaminated with the bacteria, such as while taking a shower or drinking from a water fountain.

The prison has suspended showers in the medical building until all of the potential bacteria-harboring areas and fixtures are cleaned, said corrections spokeswoman Sue McNaughton. Showers in other areas and the water used for cooking weren't affected, she said.

The prison is providing bottled water to employees and inmates as a precaution, and no employees or inmates have been diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease, McNaughton said.

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