Legionnaires’ disease is an infection of the lungs caused by Legionella bacteria. Infection occurs when a person breathes in these bacteria that are commonly found in the environment. The main symptoms are fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath with some people suffering headache, tiredness, and diarrhea. It mostly affects older people, those who smoke or used to smoke, have chronic lung disease and those with cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, or HIV.
There are two types of Legionella bacteria that cause most cases of Legionnaires' disease. Legionella pneumophila can be transmitted from contaminated cooling towers, spa pools, shower heads, vegetable misting machines and warm water systems. Legionella longbeachae can be transmitted from breathing in contaminated soil.
Environmental Health Response
Environmental health officers monitor and provide advice regarding the installation, operation and maintenance of water cooling systems to prevent or inhibit the growth of micro-organisms that cause Legionnaires' disease.
Laboratories and hospitals are required to confidentially notify cases of Legionnaires’ disease to the public health unit. Public health unit staff interview patients and their relatives about their illness and places visited 2-10 days prior to the illness onset, which is the incubation period for the disease. Where two or more cases are linked by time and place an outbreak investigation is undertaken by environmental health officers.
Information about Legionella and Legionnaires' disease is available on the NSW Health website.
To contact the Environmental Health team about Legionella and issues relateing to Legionella control, please email us or phone (02) 9382 8333 during business hours.