UPDATED: GSK to reopen site after cooling towers where Legionella bacteria detected are disinfected

Legionella bacteria--Courtesy of the CDC

After detecting the bacteria for Legionnaires' disease in cooling towers, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) temporarily closed a manufacturing site in North Carolina on Tuesday and sent employees home while it cleans the towers but said it would reopen by this weekend. 

Spokeswoman Jenni Ligday told FiercePharma in an email late Wednesday, that, "Given location and level of bacteria found, this situation posed no risk to the products manufactured inside the building.....The cooling towers are external units with no contact with product or employees. Our products are safe and effective when used as prescribed."

Ligday said that the plant in Zebulon was closed and employees sent home because the cooling towers are essential to manufacturing but that production will resume as soon as the disinfecting is completed and the plant is "back to normal operating conditions."

About 850 people work at the facility which makes about 30 GSK brands in 500 presentations including its Advair and Ellipta inhaler products. In tablet form it also makes Imitrex, Epivir, Combivir, Wellbutrin SR/Zyban, Zofran, Valtrex, Trizivir, Zovirax, Lamictal Tafinlar, Mekinist as well as Tivicay and Triumeq, two popular HIV drugs.

Legionnaires' disease, and the milder form of the infection Pontiac fever, is airborne, caught by breathing the bacteria in a mist or vapor and not spread from person-to-person. An outbreak of the illness in the South Bronx has infected 113 people since July 10, 12 of whom have died, according to The New York Times. Officials there think a refurbished hotel may be the original site of the outbreak. Officials in New York last week ordered every building with a cooling tower to test for the bacteria within two weeks.

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