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Signs of Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Sydney CBD

NSW Health is advising those who have been in the Sydney CBD area in the past 10 days to be on the lookout for symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, and advising building owners to check their cooling towers.

Five people who have developed the disease spent time in the area in the past three weeks. All five have been identified with Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Legionella is often associated with contaminated cooling towers of large buildings. People can be exposed to the bacteria if contaminated water particles from the cooling system are emitted into the air and breathed in.

The five people, two women and three men, ranging in age from their 40s to 70s, independently visited locations between Museum Station, York Street, Park Street and Martin Place in the 10 days before their onset of symptoms. All five have been admitted to hospital for treatment for pneumonia.

NSW Health environmental health officers are working with the City of Sydney to review testing and maintenance records of all cooling towers in the CBD area to prioritise inspection and sampling of potential source towers.

These five cases follow a number of recently identified cases of Legionnaires’ disease throughout Sydney. According to NSW Health, Public Health Units across NSW follow up every case of Legionnaires’ disease and work closely with local councils in the management of cooling towers.

New South Wales has a regime in place to prevent Legionella outbreaks from cooling towers. Routine testing of cooling towers has been put in place to identify contamination early, and allow for prompt cleaning and corrective actions. Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person.

NSW Health is advising building owners to ensure that their cooling towers are well maintained and that they are compliant with the requirements of the Public Health Regulation 2012.

A Legionnaires’ disease fact sheet has been developed by NSW Health. AIRAH also has a range of cooling tower and Legionella resources at www.airah.org.au/legionella

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