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Sydney Residents Warned about Legionnaires’ Disease

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As a precautionary measure, the department has arranged for cooling towers in the area to undergo disinfection and cleaning.

New South Wales (NSW) Health has issued a warning for Sydney after three people were diagnosed with Legionnaires disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is an infection of the lungs caused by the Legionella bacteria, found in water and soil.

Symptoms of the disease can include fevers, coughs, chills, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headaches, and nausea or diarrhea.

Two men in their 60s and one woman in her 70s caught the disease after traveling to locations including Victoria Park and the City of Sydney.

These three patients were all admitted to the hospital, according to NSW Health, but have now been released.

Sydney Local Health District public health deputy clinical director Dr. Isabel Hess advised the public that breathing in contaminated water particles from a cooling system can lead to people being exposed to Legionella bacteria.

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“Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can develop up to 10 days from the time of exposure to contaminated water particles in the air and include fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath and may lead to severe chest infections such as pneumonia,” Dr. Hess said.

NSW Health has confirmed one tower at the Camperdown campus of the University of Sydney has low levels of the Legionella bacteria, following testing. This cooling tower has now been decontaminated, the health department confirmed.

As a precautionary measure, the department has arranged for cooling towers in the area to be disinfected and cleaned.

Ms. Hess explained those with major health conditions and underlying lung conditions are most at risk of developing legionnaires disease.

“People who develop this disease are diagnosed by a urine or sputum test and chest X-ray and often require antibiotic treatment in hospital. Those most at risk are people with underlying lung or other serious health conditions and people who smoke,” she said.

New South Wales’ Health Advice on Preventing the Legionnaires’ Disease

The department advised that regular monthly testing of cooling towers can help with the early detection of contaminated towers, enabling quick cleaning and other corrective measures.

NSW Health also advised that building owners should make sure their cooling towers are maintained and run in compliance with the NSW Public Health Regulation 2022.

“If unwell, please seek medical advice. For non-life-threatening health concerns when you can’t visit your doctor, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222,” NSW Health said.

A NSW Health fact sheet notes that the Legionella pneumophila bacteria can grow in warm, stagnant weather.

“Regular inspections, disinfection and maintenance of cooling towers and plumbing systems limits the growth of the bacteria,” the department advises.

Meanwhile, the Legionella longbeachaeis bacteria can be found in soil and potting mix. Wetting down the potting mix, wearing gloves or a mask when using potting mix, and washing hands after handling potting mix or soil can help reduce exposure to the disease, the department advises.

“Reduce exposure to potting mix dust by following the manufacturers’ warnings on potting mix labels when gardening,” the department said.

Public House Tenant Dies with Legionnaires in New York in February

This comes after a public housing tenant died following complications from Legionnaires’ disease at a Brooklyn, New York housing development in early February.

A second resident tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease in January, but survived the incident.

The New York City Housing Authority tested the water after the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) advised of the second positive test for Legionella, The City reported.

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