Melbourne legionnaire’s death leads to review of regulations on cooling towers
The man who died had been to the Gladstone Park shopping centre before he became sick. (ABC News: Darryl Torpy)
The Victorian health department is reviewing the regulations around cooling towers after a man in his 70s died from legionnaires’ disease in Melbourne’s north.
An elderly woman has also been diagnosed with the disease — the fourth case to be linked to the area around the Airport West and Gladstone Park shopping centres — and health officials warned new cases could still be identified.
All of the patients, who are in their 60s and 70s, are being treated in hospital.
“The risk has passed, but we do want people to be aware of the fact it can take up to 10 days for legionnaire’s disease to develop,” said Dr Brett Sutton, Victoria’s deputy chief health officer.
“And people may still find themselves infected and therefore developing symptoms.”
The Department of Health and Human Services continues to investigate the cause of the outbreak, which is believed to linked to contaminated cooling towers.
“There is a cooling tower near where the people reside in Gladstone Park. That was cleaned and disinfected at the time and has been retested and come up negative,” Dr Sutton said.
Legionnaire’s is spread by breathing in water droplets containing legionella bacteria, which can grow in cooling towers.
It can cause fevers, chills, headaches, muscle pains, breathing problems and pneumonia.
The latest death has led to calls for stricter auditing and cleaning requirements and Dr Sutton said the regulations were under review.
“We need to regard these deaths as potentially preventable,” he said.
“[Those regulations are] under constant review including improved testing and we’re going through a process right now of looking at the regulations and seeing how they might be strengthened.”