In what has been reported to be the third largest Legionnaires’ disease outbreak seen since the disease was first discovered in 1976, the outbreak in suburban Portugal has claimed the lives of more people.
The death toll has climbed to eight in a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak in Portugal, while the total case count has risen to 317, according to an AFP report Nov. 16.
This is up from the 302 cases of the bacterial infection and five deaths reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) three days ago.
Portuguese health officials have said that cooling towers at a fertilizer plant were the likely source of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Environment Minister Jorge Moreira da Silva said the cooling towers at Adubos de Portugal, a unit of Spanish company Fertiberia have been shut down in an attempt to get the growing outbreak under control.
On Thursday, the WHO called the outbreak in Vila Franca de Xira, a suburban area of Lisbon, the biggest Legionella disease outbreak detected in Portugal. UN health officials said the outbreak was “rapidly evolving” and considered it a major public health emergency.
According to reports, the current outbreak in Portugal is the third largest registered worldwide, after the 2001 outbreak in Spain (450 cases registered and 6 deaths) and the Netherlands outbreak in 1999 (over 300 infected and 32 dead).
Legionnaires’ disease gained national notoriety in 1976 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered it during an epidemic of pneumonia among American legion members at a convention in Philadelphia.