NSW Health and the City of Sydney are investigating after four people infected with Legionnaires’ disease all spent time in Sydney’s CBD.
Legionnaires’ disease, a bacterial infection of the lungs, can develop after a person breathes in contaminated water vapour or dust.
City of Sydney and public health units have commenced inspections of cooling towers in the CBD, starting in the Town Hall area, as outbreaks can be associated with contaminated air conditioning systems in large buildings.
Four men who have been diagnosed have each spent time in the CBD during the period they contracted the infection, including the Druitt, Market, Sussex and Pitt Street areas. The men are currently being treated in hospitals.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, NSW Health’s Director Communicable Diseases, 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.
“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 these systems.
“People outside can be exposed to the bacteria when a water cooling system emits contaminated water particles into the air.
“People who develop this disease are diagnosed by chest X-ray and a urine test, and usually require antibiotic treatment in hospital,” Dr Sheppeard said.
NSW Health urges anyone who lives, visits or works in the Town Hall area and who develops symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease to visit their GP.
For further information on Legionnaires’ disease visit: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Legionnaires_disease.aspx