News of: Monday, July 10 2006,

Legionella casualty in Amsterdam, 14 people in hospital

In the last few days 17 cases of legionalla have been reported to the Amsterdam health authority (GGGD).

One man died of the disease, 14 patients are still in hospital. Normally, about 10-20 people per year are diagnosed with legionella. The health authorities have started an investigation to find the cause of what seems to be an outbreak. The 17 cases found so far appear (yet) to be unrelated. Physicians and hospitals in the country have been warned to watch out for the symptoms.

Legionalla is a bacterium that can cause serious illness. Symptoms vary from a heavy cold to pneumonia. Infection takes places by breathing in very small (contaminated) droplets of water. Contamination does not take place from human to human, and drinking contaminated water can not cause the disease.
The germ can develop in still-standing water below 60 degrees Centigrade, such as in water reservoirs in bath houses, hotels, apartment buildings, spa's, hospitals, etcetera. A temperature of between 25 and 55 degrees Centigrade is optimal.
The disease can be lethal (about 5-25% of the patients die), especially for people with a weakened immune system.

The authorities advise to see a doctor in case of high fever in combination with coughing. The disease can easily be treated, but the sooner the right antibiotics are used, the higher the chance of survival.

In 1999 there was an outbreak of legionella amongst visitors of a flower exhibition in the village Bovenkarspel, about 50 kilometers North of Amsterdam. Thirty-two people died, dozens of people fell ill. A fountain on the exhibition turned out to be the cause.

After this outbreak several precautions have been taken against legionella throughout the country. Regular checks now have to be carried out in hotels, swimming pools, bath houses and other publicly accessible buildings. In October 2004, a famous Amsterdam hotel, the Amstel Intercontinental, had to be evacuated because legionalla was found in the water system in the hotel.