Legionnaires may be linked to NSW hospital

Health authorities are unable to rule out a cooling tower at a southern Sydney hospital as the source of a new legionnaires’ disease outbreak.


Three people – two men aged 64 and 76, and an 85-year-old woman – have tested positive to the potentially fatal disease and all spent time in Kogarah, including around St George Hospital.

They began to show symptoms between March 22 and 26.

One of the hospital’s cooling towers returned a positive legionella result after testing on March 22 unrelated to the three cases and it has been decontaminated, but further tests are being carried out.

Other cooling towers in large buildings in the suburb are also being tested as authorities are uncertain whether the hospital’s air-conditioning system is the source of the outbreak.

The three people are all receiving treatment at the hospital.

Health authorities say there’s no risk to patients, staff or visitors due to the stringent cleaning and decontamination process.

“We are investigating the source of the contamination of the three cases and we can’t be certain it was the cooling tower at St George Hospital,” South Eastern Sydney Local Health District’s Public Health Unit director Professor Mark Ferson said.

“That’s why we are inspecting all towers in the Kogarah area.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by a bacterial infection of the lungs that can develop after someone breathes contaminated water vapour or dust.

People in the area are being urged to visit their GP if they have symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.

An elderly man died last month after a legionnaires’ outbreak in Sydney’s CBD which resulted in nine people contracting the diseases.