Montreal public health investigates after 10 cases of legionnaires’ disease, 2 deaths

Click to play video: 'Legionnaires’ outbreak kills 2 in Montreal’s east end' Legionnaires’ outbreak kills 2 in Montreal’s east end
WATCH: Montreal public health officials are investigating after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. It's a bacterial infection that can cause pneumonia and respiratory problems. As Global’s Tim Sargeant reports, ten people have contracted the disease so far, and two have died over the last six weeks. – Aug 4, 2021

Montreal public health officials are investigating after two people died of legionnaires’ disease in the eastern part of the city, a department spokesman said Wednesday.

The Public Health Department said 10 cases of the disease, which often causes pneumonia, have been identified since mid-June, all within a large area east of downtown Montreal.

Read more: Montreal public health says Legionnaires’ outbreak in LaSalle under control

Dr. David Kaiser, the department’s head of environmental and population health, says legionnaires’ disease is a respiratory infection that can be caught by breathing in small droplets of water suspended in the air that are contaminated with the legionella bacteria.

“It does not spread from person to person so that is also a big difference from COVID or other infectious diseases,” he said. “It’s really a disease that’s acquired from contaminated water through fine particles in the air.”

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Public health is still working to identify the source of the infections and has examined water-cooling towers in the area.

“It is likely that there are several sources,” Kaiser said. Aside from cooling towers, other frequent sources of contamination are splash pads, sewer maintenance work and hot water heaters.

Read more: Montreal public health investigating possible outbreak of legionnaires’ disease

Each year, around 50 Montreal residents contract legionnaires’ disease.

So far in 2021, the city has recorded 20 cases, which is normal for this time of year. But Kaiser said a higher number of cases than usual is concentrated in the city’s east end, where an infection identified in June was followed by several cases in July.

In 2012, an outbreak in Quebec City led to 181 infections and 14 deaths. It took nearly two months for officials to identify the source of that outbreak: a cooling tower atop an office building in Quebec City’s lower-town area.

— With a file from Global News’ Tim Sargeant

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