Legionnaire’s disease infection alert in Sydney

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People who have traveled to central Sydney are being warned to watch out for symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease after six cases in a fortnight.

Five cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in an alert by NSW Health on Thursday.

Another case was confirmed on Tuesday, prompting a second warning from the state health authority.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by inhaling bacteria from water or soil. It is often spread by fog, for example from air conditioning units for large buildings – and cannot be transmitted from person to person.

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The source of the six infections has not yet been identified. But all of the positive cases spent time in Sydney’s CBD area before they were diagnosed, NSW Health said in a statement.

Cases may not be related to each other.

Environmental Health Officers from NSW Health are working with the City of Sydney to inspect and sample 124 high priority cooling towers in the city centre.

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“Additionally, the owners of six towers have been urged to take immediate action to correct any faults identified,” NSW Health said.

Microbial sampling results are expected later this week to determine if any of these towers are a potential source of infection.

The six people – two women and four men aged between 40 and 70 – were hospitalized for treatment of their pneumonia. One of them has since been acquitted.

Authorities say those infected traveled to places between Elizabeth Street, Clarence Street, Park Street and Martin Place in the days before their symptoms.

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NSW Health said people can be exposed to the bacteria if contaminated water particles from cooling systems are emitted into the air and breathed in.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can develop up to 10 days after exposure to airborne contaminated water particles and include fever, chills, cough and shortness of breath and can lead to serious infections lung diseases such as pneumonia, he said.

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