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Businesses urged to check cooling towers following legionella cases

Friday, 12 May 2017

Cooling tower operators in the southern metropolitan area are being urged to decontaminate air-conditioning and industrial cooling towers following the notification of three cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

SA Health’s Director Health Protection Dr Chris Lease said cooling towers can grow and disperse Legionella bacteria if they are not properly maintained.

“Cooling towers are an ideal breeding ground for Legionella bacteria that can cause serious respiratory illnesses such as legionellosis,” Dr Lease said.

“Legionellosis can be particularly harmful to the elderly, smokers and those with compromised immune systems.

“We have been notified of three cases recently, two males and one female aged from 58 to 77, all of whom were hospitalised as a result.

“Once it becomes evident there is a cluster of cases with locations in common, we work with local councils to identify areas of risk.”

Dr Lease said the cluster of cases is an important reminder to all cooling tower operators to correctly maintain their cooling systems.

“Ongoing maintenance of water and cooling systems significantly reduces the risk of the Legionella bacteria growing so it is important that proper preventative maintenance and anti-microbial treatment is carried out at all times,” Dr Lease said.

“While there is no source identified for the recent cases which may or may not be related, the investigation into the cases is continuing and precautionary work to address the identified areas of risk is already underway.

“Action has already been taken by local councils, building managers and cooling tower operators to reduce the likelihood of any ongoing to risk to public health.”

These cases follow a cluster of nine cases in January which were suspected to be contracted within the Adelaide CBD, although a source was not identified.

For more information about Legionella regulations, guidelines and symptoms, go to www.sahealth.sa.gov.au.

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