23 January 2019

NSW Health is reminding building owners and occupiers of their obligation to check their cooling towers are well maintained and cleaned following four new cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

The cases were recorded in people who had spent time in Sydney’s central business district (CBD) during the past month, but may be coincidental.

Public Health Units in local health districts across NSW follow up every case of Legionnaires’ disease.

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

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

“Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person.

“Symptoms can develop up to 10 days from the time of exposure to contaminated water particles in the air.

“People who develop this disease are diagnosed by chest X-ray and a urine test and usually require antibiotic treatment in hospital.”

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

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

So far in 2019, there have been four cases of Legionnaires’ from the strain most commonly associated with cooling towers, Legionella pneumophila, compared to five cases for the same period last year.

Outbreaks of the disease are most frequently linked to contaminated water cooling systems of air conditioning plants in large buildings.

Symptoms include fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath and may lead to severe chest infections such as pneumonia.

For more information about water cooling systems management contact your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 or visit Legionella control.

​Update, 30 January 2019 - Two patients, in addition to the original four, have been identified who visited Sydney’s CBD in December and January. Precautionary checks of cooling towers have not identified a common source of infection.

For information on Legionnaires’ visit Legionnaires disease.