22 February 2024

NSW Health is advising people who have spent time in areas near Victoria Park in Camperdown, including parts of the University of Sydney Camperdown campus, in the past 10 days to be on alert for symptoms of Legionnaires' disease, after three people who developed the disease spent time in the area since late January.

Two men in their 60s, and one woman in her 70s, have been diagnosed with the disease after independently visiting locations in the area surrounding Victoria Park in the City of Sydney. All three patients were admitted to hospital and have since been released.

Sydney Local Heath District Deputy Clinical Director Public Health Dr Isabel Hess said people can be exposed to Legionella bacteria if contaminated water particles from a cooling system are emitted into the air and breathed in. 

“Legionnaires' disease is not spread from person to person. Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease can develop up to 10 days from the time of exposure to contaminated water particles in the air and include fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath and may lead to severe chest infections such as pneumonia," Dr Hess said.

“People who develop this disease are diagnosed by a urine or sputum test and chest X-ray and often require antibiotic treatment in hospital. Those most at risk are people with underlying lung or other serious health conditions and people who smoke."

NSW Health has directed that cooling towers in the area are disinfected and cleaned as a precautionary measure. Testing has confirmed one tower at the Camperdown campus of the University of Sydney has returned a positive result for low levels of legionella bacteria. The positive cooling tower has been decontaminated.

Routine monthly testing of cooling towers allows the early identification of contaminated towers and allows for prompt additional cleaning and corrective actions.

Building owners must ensure that their cooling towers are operated and maintained in compliance with the NSW Public Health Regulation 2022.

If unwell, please seek medical advice. For non-life-threatening health concerns when you can't visit your doctor, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (This service is free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

For more information about water cooling systems management contact your local public health unit on 1300 066 055 or visit Legionella control.​

For more information on Legionnaires' disease read the Legionnaires' disease fact sheet.