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Legionnaires' Investigation

Legionnaires’ disease in Barrie

Updated Jan. 23, 2020

 

The health unit has concluded its investigation into five cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the City of Barrie.

People generally develop symptoms two to 10 days following exposure to the bacteria, and it’s now been more than a month since the onset of the last case. Based on this, as well as the fact that none of the cooling towers that were investigated within a wide radius of the cases were found to be the source of infection, we have concluded that the increase in Legionnaires’ disease has ended. We do not anticipate further spread of the disease associated with these cases.  The investigation into four cases was announced December 11; a fifth case was identified following a notice to health care providers to watch for and test potential cases.

Despite an intensive investigation, the health unit has been unable to find the source or sources of the bacteria. This is not unusual in Legionnaires’ disease investigations, in which finding a common environmental source of the bacteria is known to be difficult and complicated.

While local cases of Legionnaires’ are not uncommon, the health unit usually sees an average of two cases in Barrie residents every year. In addition, most cases of Legionnaires’ disease are seen in late summer and early fall.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by the Legionella bacteria. People over the age of 50, smokers, or those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk for this disease.

Legionnaires' disease can cause a variety of symptoms. The most common are fever, chills, cough and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms can also develop, such as headaches, muscle pain and digestive problems (e.g. loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea).  

The bacteria responsible for the disease is commonly found in natural freshwater environments. However, it can become a health concern in water systems, such as cooling towers, plumbing systems in large buildings and certain medical devices when conditions allow the bacteria to multiply.

People can develop Legionnaires’ disease when they inhale aerosolized water droplets containing the bacteria. People cannot get Legionnaires’ disease by drinking water and it cannot be passed from person to person. Most people exposed to the bacteria do not become ill.

 

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