OUTAOUAIS – On December 3, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) announced that an investigation is underway regarding 6 cases of Legionellosis recently confirmed in the region; a total of 15 cases have been confirmed in the region so far this year. To date, no potential source of contamination has been identified, and it’s possible none will be found.
Legionellosis, also known as Legionnaires’ disease, is a respiratory infection caused by a bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) that can be found anywhere in the environment and that grows in warm water. The bacteria can infect an individual via fine droplets of contaminated water dispersed in the air. It cannot be transmitted from person to person or through drinking contaminated water.
Warm water sources like water cooling towers in buildings, water heaters and spas are favourable environments for the bacteria to grow.
Each year, several cases of Legionellosis are reported in the Outaouais, but officials are seeing an increase this year, although it’s small. According to Patricia Rhéaume, CISSSO communications agent, the average number of cases in the Outaouais varies annually, but it’s generally between 0 and 11.
Testing for the bacteria involves urine analysis. “Urine analysis is used to detect the presence of the bacteria and we usually try to obtain sputum for culture to characterize the strain since there are several,” Rhéaume told the Journal.
Who’s at risk?
People at higher risk of developing complications include smokers, those who consume large amounts of alcohol, people over 50 years of age, those with chronic illnesses (kidney failure, respiratory or heart disease, diabetes, cancer) and people with weakened immune systems.
Symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19 and the population is encouraged to contact Info-Santé at 811 or to consult a health professional if they develop a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, etc.
People can reduce their risk of contracting the bacteria by:
– Keeping the temperature of hot water heaters at 60°C and making sure to have anti-scald devices installed on shower and bath faucets;
– Running hot water from taps for a few minutes when the water heater hasn’t been used for several days (e.g., when you are away from home for an extended period of time);
– Properly using and regularly cleaning devices that create airborne droplets: showerheads, whirlpools, spas, humidifiers, respiratory therapy devices (e.g. oxygen therapy, sleep apnea devices), etc.
For more information on the disease and prevention measures, please visit https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/legionellosis (English) or https://www.quebec.ca/sante/problemes-de-sante/a-z/legionellose/ (French)