New Brunswick

Eighth person ill with legionnaires' disease, two in hospital

New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says an eighth person has contracted legionnaires' disease. Two people are in hospital, including the latest person to become ill.

Source of bacteria that causes illness is still under investigation, Public Health says

An eighth person has contracted legionnaires' disease in southeastern New Brunswick. The illness is caused by inhaling legionella bacteria. (Janice Haney Carr/Centers for Disease Control/Associated Press)

An eighth person has contracted legionnaires' disease, New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says.

An outbreak was declared last month in the Moncton region when six people were sick. 

Another case was announced in mid-August. One of those seven people died, Public Health said two weeks ago, and in an interview with CBC on Tuesday, Shephard extended condolences to the person's family.

Two people are currently in hospital with the illness, including the latest case, Health Department spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said in an email Tuesday.

He said the latest case was identified last week. No information was provided about whether the person lives or works in the Moncton area.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by inhaling legionella bacteria, which is found in many natural waterways. It's also found in man-made systems like decorative fountains, spas and cooling towers. 

Cooling towers have often been determined to be the source of outbreaks. The mechanical equipment is part of a centralized air-cooling system for a variety of types of buildings. 

Bacteria can grow and spread into the community on mist carried from the towers by the wind. The illness doesn't spread person-to-person.

Dr. Yves Léger, a regional medical officer of health, previously said cooling towers were the suspected source of the latest cases, given a lack of commonalities between the people who had contracted it.

Dr. Yves Léger, a regional medical officer of health, declared a legionnaires' disease outbreak on Aug. 6 when six people were sick. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Fifty-five cooling towers were tested in Moncton last month. Three were found to have elevated levels of legionella bacteria and were cleaned, Léger said. 

Samples from six of the eight cases were sent to a Quebec lab to determine if they had a common legionella strain, and if that strain matched the bacteria found in the cooling towers. 

On Tuesday, Macfarlane said the results show there are three separate strains among the six patients. That means there are three different sources for the bacteria. 

Macfarlane said they're still awaiting results of tests comparing strains from cooling towers to those of the six patients. 

The previous seven cases were three men and four women. One of the seven was in their mid-20s, and the rest are between their 50s and 90s.

Public Health previously said two of the seven people did not live in the Moncton area, but had travelled through the region and then developed symptoms.


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