GlaxoSmithKline said Wednesday it will resume operations at its Zebulon manufacturing plant within 3 days after Tuesday’s discovery of Legionella bacteria forced the pharmaceutical company to shut down the facility.
GSK said the potentially deadly bacteria were found in two cooling towers that are used to maintain proper manufacturing conditions at the site. But the company said no medications were tainted because the cooling towers are external units that have no contact with employees or products.
The Legionella bacteria causes Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia that has been blamed for 12 deaths and more than 100 infections this summer in New York, the largest outbreak in its history.
About 600 employees were affected by GSK’s shutdown out of the 850 who work at the site. Those employees were sent home Tuesday or instructed not to report to work.
GSK plans to clean, disinfect and return the plant back to normal operating conditions.
The bacteria grows in warm water and is typically found in cooling towers, tanks, fountains and other water systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
According to the CDC, Legionnaires’ disease is caught by inhaling mist or vapor containing the bacteria, but most who inhale the bacteria do not become ill. The bacteria does not spread from one person to another.