What is the issue?
The Department of Health has now identified two cases of Legionnaires’ disease involving individuals who have spent time in the Cranbourne East area. Both had symptoms commencing in August 2021 and required treatment in hospital.
The department is investigating the source of the outbreak and testing of local cooling towers and other potential source such as pools and spas is underway.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella bacteria, which are widespread in our environment. They are found in natural water bodies such as rivers, lakes, creeks and hot springs. The bacteria are also found in spas, potting mix, warm water systems and artificial systems that use water for cooling, heating or industrial processes, such as cooling towers.
A person may catch Legionnaires' disease by breathing in fine droplets of water that contain the bacteria. You cannot catch it from another person or by drinking contaminated water.
Who is at risk?
Although this is a common kind of bacteria in the environment, only a few people who come in contact with the bacteria become infected. Some people are at greater risk, such as people who:
- are older (usually over 65)
- drink heavily
- have chronic lung disease
- have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer or kidney failure.
Symptoms and transmission
Legionnaires’ disease often presents with initial influenza-like symptoms such as myalgia, headache, fever and cough, and may progress to atypical pneumonia, sometimes with confusion.
Consider Legionnaires’ disease in anyone who presents with compatible symptoms and has worked, visited or resides in the Cranbourne East area.
If you suspect Legionnaires’ disease, request urinary antigen testing through your normal pathology provider. As a priority, order Legionella culture on sputum, and undertake serology on blood at symptom onset and 4-8 weeks later (as paired sera).
Legionnaires’ disease is an urgent notifiable condition which requires notification upon initial diagnosis or clinical suspicion (presumptive or confirmed) as soon as practicable and within 24 hours.
Early diagnosis and treatment with appropriate antibiotics is important to reduce severity of illness and complications. Empirical treatment of community-acquired pneumonia (as per the current edition of Therapeutic Guidelines) provides adequate coverage of Legionella pneumonia. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease.
Department of Health - Legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease)
Better Health Channel – Legionnaires’ disease
For more information please contact the Communicable Disease Prevention and Control section at the Department of Health on 1300 651 160 (24 hours).
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