Contact: Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

- Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes has issued an order to close the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse and Annex following reports that an independent title searcher who works out of the office of the County Clerk has been diagnosed with a presumptive case of legionellosis.

Although the case is still under investigation by state, county and local health departments and has not been confirmed, the County Executive is taking this extreme measure.

"We are taking extraordinary steps based on the presumption that the patient does have Legionnaire's disease and will take whatever steps necessary to ensure the safety of the workers at the courthouse," said Hughes. "The County epidemiologist and the Centers for Disease Control have assured us there is no reason to close the courthouse and annex but we are erring on the side of caution," Hughes stressed.

County Executive Hughes will be in attendance at the Sept. 14 County Freeholders meeting at 6:30 in room 211 of the County Administration Building, 640 S. Broad St., Trenton.

At the present time, the County has no reason to believe this patient contracted Legionella from working at the courthouse. Guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control state that no evacuations of facilities need occur unless two or more cases of Legionnaires' are detected. However, the County has elected to close the Courthouse proactively.

Legionnaires' disease is a form of pneumonia caused by Legionella pneumophilia, a bacteria common in many of the world's ecosystems.  When present in large quantities in the human body, Legionella can cause a variety of respiratory difficulties. Legionella organisms thrive in a variety of environments-everywhere from marshes and forests to bathrooms and kitchens.

Legionella is not transmissible through casual workplace contact, nor does it typically travel between infected individuals and their romantic partners or family members.  When Legionella exists indoors, it usually travels via large, water-operated air conditioning systems. Legionella colonies flourish in moist, stagnant environments.

As of yet, the County has found no evidence of Legionella growth in any of the ventilation equipment at the Courthouse, but will begin remediation immediately to ensure the safety of the workers in the building.

The remediation will commence once a decision on the most effective way to perform sanitization of the building has been made. That decision will be made in consultation with the state Department of Health and Human Services and will be within CDC guidelines, Hughes said. Sanitization could be completed as soon as early next week.

In addition, the County is developing a preventative maintenance plan to continuously monitor for potential deficiencies in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. This will include cleaning air ducts, diffusers, and air heating units, routine inspections for water damage, and tests of air filter performance.

The County continues to monitor the condition of the existing patient closely, and to work with her and her family to determine how she might have contracted the Legionella bacteria.