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Recent Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreaks – October 2022

Posted in Legionella,Legionnaire's disease on November 29, 2022

Legionnaires’ disease affects approximately 5,000 people in the United States each year. An outbreak occurs when two or more people are exposed to Legionella in the same way and become sick around the same time. Here are the most recent outbreaks from October.

Ontario, Canada – 35 Cases

35 cases of Legionnaires’’ disease were reported in Orillia, Ontario, Canada in October. Of those, six were hospitalized, and one was killed. All confirmed cases were individuals aged 50 or over. Health officials conducted an investigation and found the likely source to be a cooling tower found in Orillia Rotary Place. Its water contained a genetic match with one sputum sample of one of the 35 cases. However, testing for the source could not be completed on the other 34 cases.

A cooling tower sprays water down through a tower to remove heat from a building. Air comes in from the sides of the tower, and as it passes through the water, heat is exchanged, and some of the water evaporates into a fine cloud-like mist. Legionella infection then happens when people inhale the microscopic water droplets if they are contaminated.

Hong Kong, China – 2 Cases

Investigations are being conducted into two reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease confirmed in Hong Kong between September 25 and October 1, 2022. The patients live in different parts of the city; one is a male aged 98, and the other is a female aged 67.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia caused by bacteria called Legionella that live in water. Legionella is usually spread through water droplets in the air (mist), which means people have to breathe the bacteria into their lungs to get sick. In rare cases, people can get sick after drinking contaminated water.

How Does Legionnaires’ Disease Spread?

Legionella bacteria become harmful when they grow in building water systems and can spread through, for example:

  • Showerheads
  • Sink faucets
  • Hot tubs
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large, complex plumbing systems
  • Cooling towers
  • Decorative fountains and water features
  • Hot water tanks and heaters

Since home and car air-conditioning units do not use water as a method to produce cool air, there is no risk of Legionella growth. However, Legionella can grow in windshield wiper fluid tanks in vehicles, especially if water is used to fill it instead of windshield washer fluid. In general, people cannot spread Legionnaires’ Disease through physical contact.

Who Is More Likely To Develop Legionnaires’ Disease?

People aged 50 and older are most often affected by Legionnaires’ disease, particularly those who smoke or have chronic lung disease. Also at increased risk of developing it are people with suppressed immune systems, for instance, due to medications or diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, HIV, or people who smoke.

How Is Legionnaires’ Disease Diagnosed?

Legionnaires’ disease presents itself as a severe type of pneumonia (lung infection) that can be confirmed with a chest x-ray. A physician will either administer a urine test or lab test on a sample of sputum (phlegm) or washing from the lung to determine whether pneumonia is caused by Legionella. Once diagnosed, patients need antibiotics and may require hospitalization. If you or a loved one suffered from Legionnaires’ Disease due to another person or company’s negligence, speak with an experienced Legionnaires’ Disease lawyer.