Legionnaires’ disease alert for Sydney CBD

2 minute read

Shoppers in the lead-up to Christmas may have gone home with an unexpected present.

NSW Health has issued a public health alert for people who visited the Sydney CBD area between 14 and 26 December 2023.

The South East Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) public health unit has been notified of 12 people who have been diagnosed with Legionella pneumophila infection who visited the Sydney CBD area between those dates.

A NSW Health spokesperson told The Medical Republic that all cases had been hospitalised as a result of their diagnosis.

“NSW Health is advising people who have been in the Sydney CBD during this time to be alert for symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, which can include fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath and may lead to chest infections such as pneumonia,” she said.

“An environmental health investigation is being carried out by NSW Health and City of Sydney Council including an assessment of cooling towers in the area and sampling of higher risk cooling towers.”

The Legionella bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease is often associated with contaminated cooling towers of large buildings. People can be exposed to the bacteria if contaminated water particles from a cooling system are emitted into the air and breathed in. Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can develop up to 10 days from the time of exposure and include fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath and may lead to severe chest infections such as pneumonia.

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

Managers of Sydney CBD buildings with cooling towers are being contacted and informed of the cluster. Routine monthly testing of cooling towers allows the early identification of contaminated towers and allows for prompt additional cleaning and corrective actions.

For more information on Legionnaires’ disease see here.

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