One of Sydney’s biggest public hospitals is the site of the city’s second Legionnaire’s disease outbreak in a month and health authorities believe the hospital’s cooling tower could be the source.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the country’s Department of Health reported that at least three people have been infected with the bacterial lung infection after spending time in or near St. George Hospital in Kogarah.
The three victims of the most recent outbreak are two men, ages 64 and 76, and one 85-year-old woman. They are currently under treatment at St. George and all are reportedly recovering. All three of them had been in the area of St. George Hospital before coming down with the illness.
“We are investigating the source of the contamination of the three cases and we can’t be certain it was the cooling tower at St George hospital. That’s why we are inspecting all towers in the Kogarah area,” said Mark Ferson, Director of the SESLHD public health unit Professor. “I would like to reassure patients, staff and visitors of St. George Hospital there is no current risk.”
Cooling towers are beneficial in that they were developed to recycle more than 98% of wasted water, but because of the environment they maintain, they can be breeding grounds for Legionnaire’s.
Legionnaire’s disease can be a brutal condition that causes fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath. It can be fatal. Fortunately, it cannot be transmitted from person-to-person contact. One typically contracts this disease after breathing in contaminated water or dust and will usually start to show signs between two and 10 days after contracting it.
The cooling tower in question has already been decontaminated, but officials are still waiting on results to determine if, in fact, it was the source. In the meantime, Public Health Unit Environmental Health Officers have said they are inspecting other cooling towers and air conditioning systems in the area.