Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline closed its North Carolina factory on August 11 after testing at a cooling tower found bacteria that causes deadly Legionnaire’s disease, a company spokeswoman said. The Legionella bacteria was discovered during routine inspections at the site in Zebulon, N.C. For the uninformed, GSK is a health care company that researches and develops pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer health care products. The company’s Zebulon site employs more than 4,400 manufacturing, research and development, and sales and marketing staff. The site reopened one week later, when Glaxo said the situation had been remedied.
The tower is a stand-alone structure that does not come in contact with any products, according to a company spokesperson. Six hundred workers were sent home or told not to come in while the towers were being cleaned and retested. City and state officials said the discovery did not warrant a public health alert and that no threat was posed to city drinking water. Reportedly, it was being tested as a precaution.
The bacteria is found naturally in warm water and thrives in environments such as hot tubs, cooling towers, water tanks, large plumbing systems and fountains, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Legionnaire’s disease, a severe kind of pneumonia, is contracted by breathing in mist containing the bacteria. The CDC says it’s not contagious. New York City’s Department of Health had previously ordered the inspection and cleaning of all cooling towers in the city in response to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that has claimed 12 lives.
Sources: Insurance Journal and Charlotte News and Observer
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