Chesterfield principal calls out ‘misleading’ news reports amid concerns of Legionella bacteria

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — The principal of Alberta Smith Elementary School in Chesterfield labeled recent news reports on Legionella testing in the district “misleading” in a letter to parents last week. The letter was shared after samples taken from one of the school’s cooling towers came back positive for the LP2 strain of the bacteria, known as “a less severe” strain.

The school is waiting on the latest test results after the affected cooling tower was “shut down, recleaned, and retested,” the Principal Jana Kline said in a letter to parents last Wednesday.

The disclosure of the results for Alberta Smith Elementary’s cooling tower came a day after Leslie Haley, a member of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, warned “there may be schools that we don’t know about yet.”

Haley told 8News that the board of supervisors may take more control over school maintenance in the county due to concerns.

Alberta Smith Elementary Principal Jana Kline informed parents of the cleaning process the school’s towers underwent and the test results in a letter on Sept. 11. The school joins six others in Chesterfield County that have tested positive for a strain of Legionella bacteria.

“After the cleaning, Alberta Smith Elementary did test positive for LP2. This a Legionella bacteria, but not the LP1 strand that causes Legionnaires’ disease and that has been the topic of discussion by the CDC. The affected tower has already been shut down, recleaned, and retested,” Kline shared in the letter. “We are awaiting the new test results now. It’s important to note that the cooling towers in question are outside of the school and that the HVAC system that cools the school is a closed-loop system inside of the school.”

Kline’s letter called out news reports on Legionella testing as “misleading” and explained that Chesterfield schools have “repeatedly asked media outlets to ensure the accuracy of their reporting.”

Chesterfield Health District Director Alexander Samuel told 8News on Sept. 11 that Legionella pneumophila (LP), one type of bacteria in the Legionella family, has multiple sub-types (LP1-LP15).

“All are of concern and if present require that action be taken,” Dr. Samuel said in an email, “but the LP1 serotype has the most significance world-wide and is the type most commonly associated with causing Legionnaires’ disease.”

Dr. Samuel also informed 8News over the phone that the bacteria is airborne and can travel two miles.

While the strain found at Alberta Smith may not typically be associated with causing Legionnaires’ disease, Chesterfield health officials have confirmed 12 cases in the county. The cases are not linked with Chesterfield schools and no students or staff members have contracted the disease.

8News reached out to Kline and Chesterfield schools for an interview but have yet to hear back. You can learn more about Legionnaires’ disease here.

This story is developing. Stay with 8News for updates.

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