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Catalonia: Legionella kills two in Blanes

Two people have died in the Blanes Legionairres’ disease outbreak, according to the Public Health Agency of Catalonia (ASPCAT). The outbreak case total now stands at 19.

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To date, the ASPCAT have investigated a total of 37 high-risk facilities (cooling towers and hot water installations with return) in which they have taken 78 samples, according to a La Vanguardia (computer translated). Together with the city council, they have also investigated 16 low-risk facilities (such as ornamental fountains, sprinkler irrigation, urban cleaning vehicles or non-return water installations) in which they analyzed 25 samples. In parallel, they have dictated cleaning and disinfection measures of the facilities and are making an analytical follow-up of the evolution of these facilities.

In the molecular studies that allow to compare the environmental and human strains, they have detected a concordance between one of the high-risk facilities and five of the cases of the outbreak. All were infected before starting the control actions. The investigation continues with establishing whether the cases that are being studied in the investigation of the outbreak have been due to exposure to a single origin. The ASPCAT has also initiated the pertinent administrative actions to determine the responsibilities derived from this outbreak.

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Legionellosis is a bacterial disease of the lungs caused by Legionella pneumophila. The disease can range from a mild respiratory illness to severe pneumonia and death. The most common form of legionellosis is known as “Legionnaires’ disease,” named after an outbreak in 1976 when many people who attended an American Legion conference in Philadelphia became ill.

Most people contract the disease by inhaling mist or vapor from a water source contaminated with the bacteria.   The disease is not contracted by drinking contaminated water, and person-to-person spread of legionellosis does not occur.

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People of any age may get Legionnaires’ disease, but the disease most often affects persons older than 50.  The disease is rare in people younger than 20 years of age.  People at high-risk of acquiring the disease include current and former smokers, persons with chronic lung disease like emphysema or COPD, or those with compromised immunity (like patients who receive corticosteroids or have had an organ transplant).  People with underlying illnesses, such as cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, or AIDS are also at higher risk.

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