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Legionnaires’ disease cluster reported at NSW retirement community

The Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Public Health Unit is reporting three cases of Legionnaires’ disease in residents of Oatlands Garden Retirement Village.

All cases occurred in older men. Two were diagnosed on 19 October and have since been discharged from hospital, and the other was diagnosed yesterday and is in a stable condition in hospital.

Image/Peggy_Marco

Health officials are investigating whether the cases represent an outbreak with a common source. Residents, staff and visitors of the village are being advised to look out for symptoms. If people notice symptoms, they should see their GP or local hospital emergency department.

LISTEN: Legionnaires’ disease and Legionella, Part One

Legionnaires Disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella which is found naturally in the environment, usually in water. It is contracted when individuals breathe in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) containing the bacteria.

Many exposed to Legionnaires do not become ill, but symptoms can be similar to forms of pneumonia including cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headaches which can last between two and 14 days after exposure. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat the symptoms.

The key to preventing Legionnaires Disease is maintenance of the water systems in which Legionella bacteria grow, including drinking water systems, hot tubs, decorative fountains and cooling towers. Persons at increased risk of infection, including the elderly, smokers, individuals with suppressed or compromised immune systems, may choose to avoid high-risk exposures, such as being in or near a hot tub.

LISTEN: Legionnaires’ disease and Legionella, Part Two

Preliminary investigation has not implicated any cooling towers in western Sydney. WSLHD’s Public Health Unit has put control measures in place for other potential sources of Legionella at the Village, and is continuing investigations.

Control measures include the closure and testing of pools, spas and sampling water systems such as sprinklers and hot water systems.

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