Bacteria in Cooling Tower Causes Shut Down of GSK’s North Carolina Plant

GlaxoSmithKline has temporarily shut down its manufacturing plant in Zebulon, North Carolina after Legionnella bacteria was found in a stand-alone cooling tower during routine inspection.

GlaxoSmithKline has temporarily shut down its manufacturing plant in Zebulon, North Carolina on August 11, 2015 after Legionnella bacteria was found in a stand-alone cooling tower during routine inspection. The bacteria causes Legionnaire’s disease, a deadly form of pneumonia. Staff at the Zebulon site have been sent home and told not to come in until the problem was resolved.

Testing of the plant is conducted every three months, said GSK spokeswoman, Jenni Brewer Ligday. She told the press that the company is investigating the situation. There is currently no reports of anyone contracting Legionnaire’s disease or that any products made at the plant were contaminated.

According to GSK, the tower does not come in contact with any with products manufactured at the plant. The company is, nonetheless, taking precautionary measures and trying to gather more information on whether any of its products have been affected.

In an Aug. 12 statement, the company reported that it closed the building because the cooling towers are needed to maintain proper temperature and humidity in the facility. GSK expects to resume operations in 72 hours following cleaning and disinfection.

A public health alert was not warranted, said city and state officials, and that no threat was posed to city drinking water, but tests are being conducted as a precaution, according to local newspapers, the Charlotte Observer.

Elsewhere in the Bronx region of New York, an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease has caused 12 deaths. At least 113 people have been infected since July 2015. In response, New York City's Department of Health has ordered the inspection and cleaning of all cooling towers.

Source: Reuters, New York Times

GSK Statement

Editor's note: Updated Aug. 13, 2015 to add GSK statement.