British Columbia

'Cluster' of cases of Legionnaires' disease confirmed in Surrey

The illness, caused by the Legionella bacteria, can lead to pneumonia in people who are at higher risk of getting sick.

Smokers, the elderly and those with pre-existing lung conditions at higher risk for illness

This 2009 colorized 8000X electron micrograph image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a large grouping of Gram-negative Legionella pneumophila bacteria. (Janice Haney Carr/Centers for Disease Control/Associated Press)

The Fraser Health Authority says it is investigating a "cluster" of cases of Legionnaires' disease in the Guildford area of Surrey.

The illness, caused by the Legionella bacteria, can lead to pneumonia in people who are at higher risk of getting sick.

The bacteria is commonly found in freshwater, groundwater and soil. It often grows and spreads in water systems like cooling towers, decorative fountains, plumbing systems and hot tubs that aren't cleaned properly.

People get Legionnaires' disease when they breathe in droplets of contaminated water.

In a release, Fraser Health said it is investigating the source of the bacteria. A spokesperson said there have been fewer than 10 cases reported.

Most healthy people don't get sick from the bacteria, but smokers, the elderly and those with pre-existing lung conditions or compromised immune systems are at higher risk.

They can develop pneumonia, as well as symptoms like fever, fatigue, diarrhea, stomach pain and shortness of breath.

Anyone who's at a higher risk and develops pneumonia-like symptoms should see a doctor. They should also seek medical treatment if they've been in the Guildford area since Aug. 21.

With files from Zahra Premji

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