NSW Health is reminding building owners in the CBD to ensure their cooling tower systems are properly cleaned and maintained after three people were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease after spending time in Sydney’s CBD late last month.
Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial infection of the lungs, which can develop after breathing in contaminated water vapour or dust. Outbreaks of the disease can be associated with contaminated air conditioning systems in large buildings.
City of Sydney and public health units have commenced inspections of cooling towers in the CBD where the patients have reported common travel, concentrating on the blocks bounded by Margaret, Kent, King and George streets.
The three patients each spent time in this part of the CBD during the period they likely contracted the infection, with the onset of symptoms from 25-28 April. All patients are currently being treated in hospitals.
At this stage, there is no evidence that these cases are linked to the CBD outbreak in March, although investigations are continuing.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director, Communicable Diseases Branch, NSW Health, said Legionnaires’ disease causes fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath.
“The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is typically between two and 10 days, so people who were exposed could have symptoms already or develop them over the next week,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“People who have recently lived, visited or worked in the above area and develop symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease should visit their GP.
“The bacteria that cause this type of Legionnaires’ disease live in water and can multiply in the water used to cool air conditioning systems.
“People can be exposed to the bacteria when a water cooling tower – that is typically located on the roof of a building – emits contaminated water vapour into the air that can then drift down onto the outside street.
“This disease causes pneumonia, and the diagnosis is typically confirmed by chest X-ray, urine and blood tests, and usually requires antibiotic treatment in hospital,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“NSW Heath is reminding building owners that it is very important they properly monitor and disinfect their air conditioning systems in compliance with the NSW Public Health Act to prevent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.”