General News

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit investigating Legionnaires’ disease

October 21, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is currently investigating a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Orillia area.

There is currently no concern to residents of New Tecumseth, but people should be aware of the risks of this bacteria.

Nineteen cases of the disease have been confirmed in individuals who either reside in Orillia or have visited the city in recent weeks.

Legionnaires’ disease is a lung disease caused by Legionella bacteria which 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, humidifiers, hot tubs and spas, and decorative fountains when conditions allow the bacteria to multiply.

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

“We have had these cases reported to us very recently, indicating the need to investigate and to take steps to reduce the risk of further transmission,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for SMDHU. “The health unit is looking for a source of the bacteria and health care providers in the community are being notified to watch and test for potential cases.”

The health unit is working with community partners to help raise awareness, gather information and monitor the impact of this cluster of cases. 

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by 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 Legionnaires’ disease. Legionnaires’ disease can be treated with antibiotics and most cases are resolved without long term effects.

Common symptoms of the disease are fever, chills, cough and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms can also develop, such as headaches, muscle pain and digestive problems.

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