Outbreak News Today

Lisbon Legionella outbreak claims 5th life


A 76-year-old woman is the fifth fatality linked to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Lisbon, Portugal. According to a Spanish news source (computer translated), the number affected by the bacterial outbreak has risen to 46 since late October.

This image depicts two Legionella pneumophila bacterial colonies (arrowheads), amongst other bacterial colonies grown on BCYE (Buffered Charcoal Yeast Extract) agar/CDC

The San Francisco Javier Hospital in Lisbon is the focal point of the outbreak, particularly the two cooling towers and two water supply tanks, the report notes.

The outbreak has sparked such public concern that even the president of the Republic of Portugal, the conservative Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, took action on the matter and did not hesitate to request that an investigation be conducted as exhaustively as possible.

The investigations continue their course by the Ricardo Jorge Institute.

The public has not forgotten the Legionella outbreak in 2014 that sickened more than 400 and killed 12 in Vila Franca de Xira, in the vicinity of Lisbon.

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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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