An employee at West Chester University has tested positive for Legionnaires' disease, and "higher-than-acceptable" levels of the bacteria that cause it were found in eight campus buildings, officials said Wednesday.

Immediate steps were taken to kill the Legionella bacteria that were found in the buildings' cooling towers, Mark Mixner, vice president of administration and finance, wrote in a memo to the university's more than 1,000 employees.

The university "engaged a remediation firm that is treating the affected cooling towers" Wednesday and Thursday to eliminate the bacteria and ensure they do not return, Mixner said.

He identified the buildings as 201 Carter Dr., School of Music Building and Performing Arts Center, Frances Harvey Green Library, Main Hall, Merion Science Center, Schmucker Science Center, Sykes Student Union, and Lawrence Hall.

The university has notified the Chester County Health Department, Mixner said.

"The presence of Legionella bacteria does not mean that a person will contract Legionnaires' disease. Since the bacteria exist naturally in the environment, people often receive low-level exposure without contracting the disease. The bacteria also cannot be passed from person to person," Mixner said.

The university was informed about the employee's illness on July 6, university spokeswoman Pam Sheridan said.

Water samples were taken from the cooling towers July 9 and the test results were returned July 22, Sheridan said.

No classes are currently being held on the campus, she said.

The university received confirmation Wednesday that the employee had tested positive for the bacteria, Mixner said.

In the memo, he described the disease as a severe form of pneumonia with symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches, and headaches.

An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease this month in New York City killed two people.

Philadelphia is notoriously linked to the disease. In 1976, attendees of an American Legion convention were stricken and 34 people died.

bmoran@phillynews.com

215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215