Ford Motor Co. shut down its casting plant in Brook Park, Ohio, 15 miles southwest of Cleveland, following three confirmed cases of Legionnaires'' disease.
Two Legionnaires'' disease victims from the plant were hospitalized, and the third was still at home yesterday after being previously diagnosed, according to a Ford spokesman.
Symptoms of Legionnaires'' disease, first identified when an outbreak occurred during the 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia, include high fever, cough and shortness of breath.
It is caused by bacteria that can be inhaled when water is released into the air through air conditioners, steam or other means.
Local and state health officials as well as staff from the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA are conducting an investigation and taking water samples at the plant to try to identify the cause.
Health officials said a cooling tower at the plant may be the source of the disease.
An employee who likely worked near the tower died Friday, apparently of pneumonia.
Legionnaires'' disease is not easily distinguished from other forms of pneumonia making it difficult to pinpoint an accurate number of cases.
The CDC estimates there are 8,000 to 18,000 cases a year, while OSHA says there are approximately 25,000 cases.
OSHA also estimates Legionnaires'' kills 4,000 people a year.
According to OSHA rules, if two or more cases are attributed to a work site, it is considered an outbreak.
The Ford plant, which casts engine parts, has 2,500 employees.
by Virginia Sutcliffe