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Inmate Contracts Legionnaire's Disease At Columbus Prison Medical Center

Franklin Medical Center

An inmate at Franklin Medical Center has been hospitalized after contracting Legionnaire's disease.

State prison officials aren’t naming the inmate, who is listed in non-life threatening condition at an Ohio State University medical facility. None of the other inmates being held nearby have contracted infections.

State corrections medical director Kevin Runyon says now they’re focusing on identifying the source.

“We’re in there testing the water, the shower areas where the individual, we think, was exposed, and all the other dorms on that site as well to ensure that we’re getting a good test of the water,” Runyon says. “And after that we’ll run it through a hyper chlorination process.”

He says running chlorine through the water system will kill any remaining colonies of the Legionella bacteria.

The inmate who contracted Legionnaire's was in a low security section of Franklin Medical Center known as Zone B. There was one Legionella bacteria incident in that area last year, and there have been five since 2017 in the other parts of the facility.

Once a case is identified, Runyon says they begin monitoring other inmates looking for fevers and respiratory illnesses.

"We can even test them to see if they have legionella before they have any signs or symptoms, so we try to get out ahead of that early and make sure that everybody is looking out for that moving forward," Runyon says.

Legionella grow in water between 78-124 degrees Fahrenheit. So Runyon says part of avoiding further transmission lies in keeping cold water cold and hot water hot.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.