Legionnaires’ disease cluster a reminder to cooling tower owners

In the last six weeks, five cases of Legionnaires’ disease were recorded in people who had spent time in the Sydney’s Central Business District.

NSW Health’s Executive Director of Health Protection, Dr Jeremy McAnulty said that while no source of these infections has been identified, precautions are being taken.

“As a precaution when cases report common movements, NSW Health works with local councils to ensure cooling towers in the affected area are properly maintained,” Dr McAnulty said.

So far this year, there have been 75 cases of Legionnaires’ disease from the strain most commonly associated with cooling towers, Legionella pneumophila, compared to 77 cases for the same period in 2017.

Symptoms of Legionnaires disease can develop up to 10 days from the time of exposure to contaminated water particles in the air and can lead to severe chest infections (pneumonia).

NSW Health has strengthened the Public Health Regulation to reduce the community’s risk of Legionnaires’ disease, requiring building owners to conduct monthly tests on cooling towers and notify high levels of Legionella and other bacteria to local councils.

The amendments came earlier this year after extensive consultation with local government, industry, independent experts and peak industry associations.

Building owners and occupiers must ensure key safeguards are in place for cooling towers. Building occupiers already have to comply with the Australian Standards for maintaining cooling towers, which require regular inspections and cleaning.

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