Aged care providers being reminded to clean out air conditioning cooling towers following four confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Adelaide in the past week.
No common location has been reported by the patients during the incubation period, all of whom are men and are being treated in hospital.
Temperature changes are a common cause of the growth of Legionella bacteria, and current weather patterns across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales and Queensland are creating the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria.
South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kevin Buckett said it’s important that proper preventative maintenance and anti-microbial treatment is carried out on water and cooling systems, particularly in times of variable weather.
From the time of infection with Legionella bacteria, it takes between two and 10 days for symptoms to appear. In most cases, symptoms begin after five or six days.
The first symptoms are non-specific flu-like symptoms including fever, headache and muscle aches. There may also be a mild cough with or without phlegm. Some people may develop diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
The illness usually progresses rapidly and the chest infection (pneumonia) symptoms become obvious, with high fever, shortness of breath and chest pain being typical symptoms.
It is difficult to distinguish a Legionella infection from other types of pneumonia by symptoms alone and other medical tests are required to diagnose the disease. Such tests include sputum, blood and/or urine tests, which may need to be repeated to confirm the diagnosis.