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By Miriam Raftery

March 7, 2023 (San Diego) – Michael J. Buono, a professor at San Diego State University, has died of Legionnaire’s disease, SDSU confirmed today. He was a faculty member in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Science and had been with SDSU for four decades.

"The world and our SDSU community won't be the same without Dr. Buono," read a joint statement from Provost Salvador Hector Ochoa, Vice President for Research and Innovation Hala Madanat and Professor and Director of the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences Matthew T. Mahar. "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 contracted Legionnaire’s disease last month, which resulted in closure of the Exercise and Nutritional Sciences building since Feb. 13.  The campus has not disclosed where Buono contracted the illness, but he was the only person on campus confirmed to have the illness.

Legionella bacteria, which cause Legionnaire’s Disease, can be found naturally in freshwater, but can also grow and spread in human-made water systems such as fountains, hot water tanks and hot tubs, according to the California Department of Public Health. The university has been working with the County’s Health and Human Services agency to identify the potential source.

Legionnaire’s Disease, also called Legionella pneumonia, is severe and often requires hospitalization. It can be treated with antibiotics, but can be fatal in some cases.  Symptoms may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headaches, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and confusion.

Buono received his Master’s in Education at the University of Nevada and his PhD from the University of Arizona in animal physiology.  He served as an associate professor and assistant professor before becoming a full professor. He has also served as co-scientific director of the Rees-Steely Research Foundation Laboratory in San Diego and as a physiology instructor for the physician assistant program at the Naval School of Health Science, at Balboa Hospital.

In describing his teaching philosophy, Buono wrote: "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.

KPBS reports that Buono's family recalls him as "a wonderful husband, father, brother, son and friend who lived a life full of curiosity, eagerness, kindness, and who had a genuine desire to help all of those around him achieve their very best.”

SDSU leadership encourages grieving campus community members to use support services, including counseling for students at counseling as well as psychological services and confidential support for faculty and staff.


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