Bacteria That Cause Legionnaires' Disease Found in American Airlines Maintenance Hangars

Low levels of the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease have been found in the water at four American Airlines maintenance hangers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

American started testing for Legionella at the four buildings – located on the west side of the airport – after one of the workers there showed symptoms of the disease.

In a letter to employees dated last Friday, and obtained by NBC 5 Investigates, the company says low levels of the bacteria were found in water from eight shower heads and that further testing found similar levels in water from sink faucets and water fountains.

"Nothing is more important than the safety and health of our employees," said American Airlines spokesman, Matt Miller. "We're taking extra precaution and establishing additional safety procedures."

American says the showers and faucets now have filters, and bottled water is available to employees in all four maintenance hangers.

The bacterium is often found in water supplies, and the disease can be deadly.

"Causes pneumonia and all sorts of crazy symptoms associated with it, like vomiting, diarrhea, altered mental status, confusion," said Dr. Mark Till, chairman of the emergency department at Texas Health Presbyterian.

"Depending on what study you read, between 10 and 50 percent of water supplies in the world are contaminated by (Legionella)," Till said.

Till said the bacteria tends to come from the pipes, and not the water itself.

The one American Airlines employee has since recovered, and no one else has gotten sick.

"Our facilities continue to be a safe place to work," Miller said. "And we're working with local authorities and our partners at the airport on long-term safety measures to ensure the cleanliness of the water at our maintenance hangars."

D/FW Airport buys water from both Dallas and Fort Worth, and says routine testing has not shown anything unusual in the water supply.

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