Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said Friday a worker at its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit has contracted Legionnaires’ disease.
The automaker said in a statement that it’s not clear if the employee was infected in the plant, but it has begun testing water sources at the factory.
“We have mobilized a team to begin testing water sources, and are following appropriate and established protocols at the plant. We are taking these extraordinary, proactive measures as a precaution,” the statement said.
FCA was informed of the diagnosis on Wednesday and is conducting tests in areas of the plant where the employee worked, The Detroit News reported. FCA employs 5,000 workers at the Jefferson plant.
Legionnaires’ disease is type of pneumonia caused by bacteria transmitted through mist or water, often from cooling systems such as air conditioners.
Abdul El-Sayed, executive director of the Detroit Health Department, said the department doesn’t usually get immediately involved when the disease is reported, but it does track the reports carefully.
He said there’s been an uptick in the number of statewide cases of Legionnaires’ disease so far this year. While El-Sayed said it could be attributed to higher-than-usual rain and humidity in the state, the department is working to find the cause of the disease’s increase in certain regions.
On Thursday, the Genesee County Health Department reported two new cases of Legionnaires’ disease, bringing the total to 12 this year. The county, near Detroit, is home to the city of Flint. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed an increase of the disease in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015, with 42 cases reported from May to November 2015. Officials said they can’t confirm if the increase is due to the lead-tainted water in Flint.
Either way, El-Sayed said, it was “laudable” for FCA to begin testing on its own. He said it will take a few days for tests to confirm whether the plant is the source of the disease.