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A Legion of Trouble: Cooling Tower Infects over 300 in Portugal

At least ten people have died and another 38 are hospitalized due to Portugal’s largest outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, according to Reuters. Authorities have determined the source of Legionella exposure was one of the industrial cooling towers at the Vila Franca de Zira area, northeast of Lisbon, which infected over 300 people who lived or worked in the area.

Legionnaire’s disease is a form of pneumonia caused by exposure to the aquatic bacteria known as Legionella pneumophila.  You can be exposed to Legionella by inhalation of aerosolized Legionella contaminated water droplets or by aspiration or choking on Legionella contaminated drinking water.  LD develops 2-14 days after exposure and symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms such as chills and body aches, and confusion or other mental changes.  LD is diagnosed by a medical provider and antibiotics are required for treatment. Fortunately, not everyone who is exposed to Legionella will develop the illness. The disease is not contagious in that it does not spread from person to person.

Typically, if a case of Legionnaire’s disease is confirmed, a full scale investigation should commence. The many steps to determine the source of Legionella include determining if your building or adjacent buildings have water systems, to include cooling towers, contaminated with the bacteria by conducting a building investigation, risk assessment and causation analysis.  The expert response team of medical and environmental specialists can identify areas susceptible to the growth of Legionella, manage the incident, perform medical evaluations or surveillance activities (if necessary), conduct town hall meetings, and help create a remediation and preventive maintenance plan if Legionella source is found.

For more information relating to Legionella, Legionnaire’s disease and the solutions, please contact us at




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