Legionella Outbreak in Victoria, Australia

The Victoria Age – Four cases of potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease have been linked to Melbourne Airport according to the Victorian Department of Health.

legionella outbreak

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester has urged doctors to be alert to symptoms of the form of pneumonia after four people who had travelled through Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport were diagnosed over the last month. The people had all travelled overseas or interstate and returned through Melbourne Airport.

In a memo to doctors, Dr Lester said the airport’s cooling towers had been tested, however no evidence of the legionella bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ Disease was found. She said all towers have been treated for the disease as a precaution.

Dr Lester urged doctors to look out for symptoms of the illness, which include fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, confusion, vomiting and diarrhoea.

“Consider Legionnaires’ disease in patients presenting with an influenza-like illness or pneumonia who have travelled through Melbourne Airport Tullamarine between 1 March 2013 and 12 April 2013,” she said in the memo sent on Friday.

“Early diagnosis and treatment with appropriate antibiotics is important in reducing the severity of illness and the risk of severe complications. Referral to hospital is often required for confirmed cases.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia that can be fatal. The bacteria that causes the disease, Legionella, are found in natural water bodies such as rivers and lakes. They can also be found in spas, potting mix, warm water systems and artificial systems that use water for cooling, heating or industrial processes, such as cooling towers.

While the disease can be caught by breathing in fine droplets of water that contain the bacteria, people cannot catch the disease from other people. People at greatest risk include those aged over 50, smokers, people with a chronic illness and those with conditions that weaken their immune system.