GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) plans to resume operations at its Zebulon plant that closed after discovery of bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
GSK said in a statement Friday the plant in Zebulon that produces inhaled medications will reopen Monday. It had closed Aug. 11 after testing found the bacteria in cooling towers.
The company, which employs several thousand people in the Triangle area, said the towers have been cleaned and disinfected. About 400 employees were told to stay away until the towers were cleaned.
The same bacteria found in water tanks in the Bronx section of New York City caused 12 Legionnaires’ disease deaths this summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 8,000 to 18,000 Americans are hospitalized with the illness annually.
A routine test found the bacteria legionella, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia, or a milder infection called legionellosis.
A spokesman said the entire campus, which has several buildings, was not shut down – only the main site. The bacteria was not found in any of the buildings, and the cooling towers do not directly put air into the buildings. The towers will be cleaned and retested before employees return to work.
The North Carolina Division of Public Health said last week that no one has reported any symptoms or illness associated with the shutdown.
GSK uses the Zebulon plant to manufacture a variety of products. Among the products made in Zebulon are Advair, Breo and Ellipta. However, manufacturing of these drugs was not affected, the company said.
The medications produced at the plant are safe, the company told The Associated Press.
People can contract Legionnaires’ disease when they inhale water vapor or mist containing the bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. It does not spread from person to person, the agency said.
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesman said Wednesday the drug safety regulator was still looking into the details and referred questions to GlaxoSmithKline.