Legionnaires’ warning for Lidcombe area

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia, a respiratory illness.

Western Sydney Local Health District is warning anyone recently in Lidcombe to watch for symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease after two people developed the disease after spending time in the area.

Two Western Sydney residents – a male in his 70s and a female in her 80s – who spent time in Lidcombe before becoming unwell were reported to NSW Health with Legionnaires’ disease, prompting an investigation.

Dr Shopna Bag, Director Public Health Western Sydney Local Health District, said decontamination of a Lidcombe building was completed today and there is no ongoing risk to anyone in the area.

“Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person,” Dr Bag said.

“The investigation team was notified today that Legionella pneumophila bacteria had been detected in a sample taken from a water cooling system on a building in Lidcombe.

“We have immediately issued an order to the building owner to decontaminate the system. The decontamination occurred today so there is no ongoing risk from this system to people visiting Lidcombe.

NSW Health has recently strengthened the Public Health Regulation to reduce the community’s risk of Legionnaires’ disease, requiring building owners to conduct monthly tests on cooling towers and notify high levels of Legionella and other bacteria to local council.

The two people diagnosed with this type of Legionnaires’ disease both spent time in the Lidcombe area during the period they contracted the infection.

The Western Sydney Public Health Unit and Cumberland Council immediately began inspecting and sampling of cooling water systems and other potential sources of contaminated water droplets in the area.

Dr Bag said anyone who has recently been in the Lidcombe area who develops symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, including fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath, should visit their GP.

“The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is typically between two and 10 days,” Dr Bag said.

“People who develop this disease are diagnosed by chest X-ray and a urine test, and usually require antibiotic treatment in hospital.”

The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease live in water and can multiply in the water used to cool air conditioning systems, so infection is prevented by routinely maintaining and treating the systems. People outside a building can be exposed to the bacteria when a water cooling system emits contaminated water particles into the air.

Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial infection of the lungs that can be contracted by breathing in water droplets contaminated with Legionella pneumophila bacteria and cannot be spread from person to person.

In 2016 and 2017 there were 93 and 81 cases of Legionella pneumophila infection notified to NSW Health. So far this year, NSW Health has been notified of 56 Legionella pneumophila cases.

For further information on Legionnaires’ disease visit: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/legionnaires_disease.aspx