Air conditioning shut off in Wayne State University's Old Main building due to legionella

Cooling system will be off for 2-3 days

DETROIT – Wayne State University's Old Main building will be without air conditioning or cooling fans for several days after legionella was discovered in a cooling tower.

Legionella is bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease.

According to the school, the cooling system is expected to be off for two or three days while the towers are disinfected and cleaned.

Cooling towers are treated by either a shock treatment of chemicals or through an adjustment of the existing water treatment plan.

Water in the cooling towers is an isolated system not connected to drinking water. Air from the towers is directed away from the building.

Legionella bacteria do not spread from one person to another and Legionnaires’ disease doesn't come from drinking water.

The most likely sources of infection include potable water used for showering, cooling towers in large air conditioning units, decorative fountains and hot tubs. People can get Legionnaires' disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.

Symptoms of the disease include cough, fever, chills and muscle aches. In some cases, pneumonia may develop.

People at increased risk of contracting the disease are those 50 years or older; current or former smokers; people with a chronic lung disease; people with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system; people with cancer; and people with underlying illnesses, such as diabetes, kidney failure or liver failure.

Anyone with questions or concerns is asked to contact Phil Cunningham, associate vice president for research, at 313-577-9064 or