SAN DIEGO — A San Diego State professor who had recently been diagnosed with Legionella pneumonia died over the weekend, the university announced Tuesday.
Dr. Michael J. Buono, a professor in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, was identified as the individual who was exposed to the bacteria, which prompted a temporary closure of one of the school’s buildings in mid-February. He died from the disease on Saturday.
SDSU notified the campus of a Legionella exposure on Feb. 14, however, the name of the individual affected was not disclosed. In the statement Tuesday, officials said they withheld the information due to employee confidentiality.
The initial report indicated that the individual was quarantined from campus and recovering, prior to the announcement of Buono’s death.
In a statement, school officials honored Buono’s 40 years as a member of the Aztec community and the contributions he made as an educator.
“Many of us benefited from his stories, humor, and the countless ways he showed us the importance of community and connection,” the statement read. “The world and our SDSU community won’t be the same without Dr. Buono. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, colleagues and the many students whose lives he touched through his decades of teaching and mentorship.”
Buono graduated with his Ph.D in Animal Physiology from the University of Arizona, before starting as an assistant professor with SDSU in 1982. During his tenure at the university, he led the Kasch Exercise Physiology Laboratory and the Rees-Stealy Research Foundation Laboratory. He also served as a physiology instructor for the physician assistant program at the Naval School of Health Science.
“As an educator, I value creative thinking almost as much as content mastery. I want students to value their own ability to think creatively, and I encourage them to use novel ways to demonstrate their knowledge,” the university said he wrote regarding his teaching philosophy.
The full statement from SDSU on Dr. Buono’s passing can be viewed here.
“Many of us benefited from his stories, humor, and the countless ways he showed us the importance of community and connection. Dr. Buono had a special gift of brightening your day every time you saw him,” the university said. “Dr. Buono’s family has requested privacy during this difficult time, but has allowed us to share this information with our campus community as so many of us come together to honor his significant impact and legacy at SDSU.”
It is still not known at this time how Buono was exposed to the bacteria, however, it is commonly found in freshwater environments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a separate statement Tuesday, the university said that the Exercise and Nutritional Sciences (ENS) building and the ENS Annex were still closed for testing, which it expects to be completed next week. Officials added that no additional cases of Legionella pneumonia had been reported.
Testing for Legionella bacteria, including swab and drinking-water samples, was done on the water systems of both buildings, and samples were sent to a laboratory for analysis, officials said. The university said a “preliminary analysis has not yet produced any conclusive results” and it would be moving forward with additional testing “out of a continued abundance of caution,” adding that it expects to receive final test results by the end of next week.