Guildford Walmart closed over concerns of Legionnaires’ disease reopens
A Walmart Supercentre in Surrey that was closed due to concerns about a possible Legionnaires’ disease outbreak has reopened to the public. The Walmart is adjacent to the Guildford Town Centre Mall, where tests confirmed the presence of Legionella bacteria in the building’s cooling towers on Friday. The mall remained open, but the big box store chose to close “out of an abundance of caution,” said Walmart Canada director of corporate affairs Anika Malik in an email. “The safety of our associates and customers is our top priority,” said Malik in an email. “We voluntarily decided to temporarily close our store while taking steps to deep clean and sanitize our cooling towers which support our refrigeration units.” Malik said that the store’s refrigeration units remain powered off, and will remain so until Fraser Health can conduct an inspection. She added that the store won’t be able to sell any refrigerated or frozen food until that inspection is complete and the cooling system is rebooted. “Public Health has confirmed that we are able to open the store without offering refrigerated or frozen products at this time,” said Malik. Fraser Health has confirmed seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Surrey, all clustered in the Guildford neighbourhood. The authority said Saturday that there have been no new cases of Legionnaires’ detected. However, the disease can take up to 10 days for symptoms — including cough, fatigue, fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea — to show up. Fraser Health has said that anyone showing these symptoms should visit a doctor, and should also let them know if they’ve been in the Guildford area in the last week and a half. It added that both the Guildford Mall and Walmart had cooperated with investigators and taken appropriate action, and that the public should feel safe visiting them. Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacteria known as Legionella, which is commonly found in the natural environment, including freshwater, groundwater and soil. It can, in extreme cases, be fatal. Source: globalnews.ca/ Guildford Walmart reopens after Legionnaires’ disease scare Fraser Health confirmed seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease in patients in the Guildford area in the past two weeks By: NICK EAGLAND Updated: September 8, 2018 A Surrey Walmart reopened Saturday after closing Friday because water-cooling towers at Guildford Town Centre tested positive for the bacteria that causes legionnaires’ disease. Fraser Health confirmed seven cases of legionnaires’ disease in patients who were in the Guildford area in the past two weeks. Officials spoke to them and their family members about possible sources of exposure, said Dr. Aamir Bharmal, a medical health officer with the authority. After confirming that some of the patients had visited the Walmart at Guildford Town Centre, Fraser Health staff tested cooling towers, water features and decorative fountains inside the mall, where water is aerosolized, Bharmal said. The bacteria is carried in droplets of water. The Guildford Walmart Supercentre closed on Friday “out of an abundance of caution,” after being contacted by Fraser Health about the investigation, said Anika Malik, director of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada. On Saturday, Malik said while the business was shut they cleaned and sanitized the cooling towers and refrigeration units. She said the refrigeration units remain off so the store cannot sell cold or frozen products until the coolers are turned back on, however the store is open for business. “Public Health has confirmed that we are able to open the store without offering refrigerated or frozen products at this time. We look forward to welcoming our associates and customers to the store,” she said, in an email. The coolers will not be turned back on until a health inspection takes place. Cooling towers inside the mall and the Walmart tested positive for legionella bacteria, but are not definitively what made the patients get sick, so the health authority is continuing to investigate, inspect and resample, Bharmal said. Fraser Health is also awaiting test results to determine whether all seven patients got sick from the same source. “Our advice at this point isn’t to tell people to stay away from the mall, at all,” he said. “They are taking a lot of proactive measures to clean out the cooling towers.” Bharmal said legionella is “not entirely unexpected” inside cooling towers because it is found naturally in soil, groundwater and freshwater. But “even though it’s not expected, it’s not desirable,” he added. He said building water systems need to be periodically closed down for thorough cleaning. Sébastien Théberge, a spokesman for Ivanhoe Cambridge Inc., which owns Guildford Town Centre, said in an emailed statement that the health and safety of the mall’s customers and employees is top priority, and his firm has fully complied with all requests from Fraser Health. “Throughout the process, we have been advised there was no public health concern within the shopping centre,” Théberge said. “The shopping centre remains open for business.” Doug Strachan, spokesman for the Surrey school district, said the district is aware of the legionnaire’s cases and has been in contact with Fraser Health. “If there are any special actions that we need to take, they’ll let us know,” he said. “So far, there’s nothing.” “Patients can get legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in aerosolized water droplets containing legionella,” Fraser Health said in a statement. “Most healthy people do not get legionnaires’ disease from being exposed to legionella. However, those at higher risk for developing pneumonia are the elderly, smokers, people with chronic lung conditions and the immuno-compromised.” Fraser Health recommends against testing for people who don’t have symptoms — even if they’ve been in the Guildford area — but said testing should be considered for people who have pneumonia-like symptoms, such as coughing, fever, shortness of breath or fatigue, and were in the Guildford area within 19 days of the symptoms appearing.