Thursday, March 02, 2006

Legionnaires outbreak!

Something that is close to home....

March 02, 2006

THE search for the source of Melbourne's outbreak of legionnaires' disease continued today, as the potentially deadly airborne bacteria struck down its seventh victim.

The 83-year-old man is recovering in the city's Northern Hospital after his diagnosis late last week.

Department of Human Services spokesman Bram Alexander said the man had been seriously ill for several days.

"The man was admitted to the hospital late last week ... it fits the epidemiology," Mr Alexander said.

He said the man had recently visited Preston, the Melbourne suburb blamed for the source of the outbreak.

Health officials revealed yesterday that an outbreak of the disease was centred on the suburb in the city's north, and it had killed an 85-year-old man from Reservoir and put five others in hospital.

Legionnaires' bacteria is known to flourish in poorly-maintained air-conditioning infrastructure, and teams of health department staff yesterday took samples from nine suspect "cooling towers" before they were disinfected.

The Health Department is yet to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, and teams of departmental staff went back to the suburb today to look for further towers not listed on an official register.

The Northland Shopping Centre is home to one of the suspect towers, and its management has moved to assure shoppers that it was in the clear.

"The centre undertakes regular and stringent independent testing of its water cooling plant and has installed the latest equipment to minimise the risk to retailers, staff and the general public," Northland retail manager Matthew Norden said.

"Northland has provided its latest test results to the DHS confirming that all cooling plant is free of the disease ... there is no linkage with the centre to the reported cases in the area."

Mr Alexander said today the results of official testing would not be known for about a week, and it was: "too early to rule anyone out".

Melbourne businesses have been urged to check their sickness records, and any staff who have been off work with flu-like symptoms for more than three days should contact their doctor.

Mr Alexander said yesterday's disinfection effort was likely to curtail the outbreak but he warned that legionnaires' disease had an incubation period of 10 days.

"While we would hope that there would be no new cases, there may be people that are still in the incubation period," he said.

A 61-year-old man diagnosed with the infection was discharged from Werribee Hospital yesterday, while an 80-year-old man was discharged from the Austin Hospital.

Two women, aged 83 and 65, remain in satisfactory conditions at the Austin while a fifth person, a 43-year-old man, is recuperating at home.

taken from here

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