Sydney Legionnaires’ disease outbreak update

NSW Health has confirmed that two further people with Legionnaires’ disease are now linked to the Sydney CBD outbreak identified last week, bringing the total number of cases to five.

Both are men who were in the CBD at a similar time as the first three cases. One of the new cases is a man in his fifties and the other is a man in his forties from Victoria. They are currently being treated in hospital.

The original three cases included a man in his eighties and two women in their thirties.  One has been discharged from hospital, another is stable and the third is still in a critical condition.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director, NSW Health Communicable Diseases Branch, said environmental health teams had completed the inspection and testing of all 89 cooling towers and any other potential sources of Legionella in the area of common exposure – the blocks bounded by Margaret, Kent, King and George streets.

“Preliminary results indicate that five cooling towers have tested positive to Legionella.  Contaminated cooling towers are a common source of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks but they can often be contaminated without ever causing disease,” Dr Sheppeard said.“Further testing on these towers is being undertaken to determine whether or not oneor more of these towers may be the source of the recent outbreak.

“NSW Health and the City of Sydney have ensured appropriate regulatory action on these towers is underway, including orders requiring cleaning and disinfection.”

NSW Health has urged the owners of buildings in the CBD to ensure their cooling towers are operated and maintained according to the requirement of the Public Health Act.

NSW Health also has a Legionella working group comprised of experts in this field which is actively reviewing the recent outbreaks and considering whether any new measures are required to strengthen prevention and control activities.

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