A worker at a Ford plant, Donald Tafoya, was the first of four cases of Legionnaires'. He died several days ago after first being diagnosed with pnuemonia. When other ford workers were diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, Tafoya's family halted his cremation to run a test.
"More than anything else, it just adds seriousness and impact to this investigation," Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Tim Horgan tells NewsChannel5.
Of the three other cases of Legionnaires' disease, two patients remain hospitalized, while one recovers at home. Health officials are checking out 20 other people who have been sick in the last month at the Ford plant.
Legionnaires' disease can be spread after people breathe mists that come from a water source such as air conditioning, spas and showers that carry the bacterium. About 8,000 to 18,000 people get Legionnaires' disease every year in the United States. Sometimes people can have it and show no symptoms at all, NewsChannel5 reports. Five to 30 percent of people with Legionnaires' die from the disease. Anyone can get Legionnaires', but it most often affects smokers and people with chronic lung disease.
Currently and through the weekend, the plant will be closed while county and state health officials and investigators search for the source of the disease, which affects only the casting plant at the Ford complex in Brook Park.
Workers say it will be an intense search, given the size of the plant--578,000 square feet with a possible hidden contaminated water source.
Ford took steps immediately such as shutting off showers and water coolers and supplying bottled water to employees. The company reported that when public health authorities finish taking samples, the company will disinfect the plant, whether or not contamination is found.
For more information about Legionnaires' disease, call the Cuyahoga County Board of Health hotline at 216-443-7300; www.ccbh.net.