MONCTON, N.B. — One person in Moncton has died because of an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease in the city, says public health.
Few details are being provided about the deceased individual, other than saying the person did have “risk factors for a severe outcome,” according to the regional medical officer of health, Dr. Yves Leger.
Public health says there are no new cases of the disease, leaving the total for the early-August outbreak at seven. One person remains in hospital, but Leger says they are stable and improving daily.
The source of the outbreak is still not known. Leger says testing has now been completed for three of the six individuals who contracted the disease, but the results seemingly provide more questions than answers.
“The surprise was that those three patients, the bacteria were not identical, they were not the same. So of course, that was a bit of a surprise because we were dealing with six cases in less than two weeks,” says Leger.
Leger says the lack of connection between the three cases means there is likely more than one source.
“We may still be looking for or trying to identify a common source, that’s a possibility. Certainly, there isn’t one that explains all the cases, we know that much.”
Cooling towers in the city were originally suspected as the source of the outbreak.
Public health says 55 towers have been tested across Moncton with three showing levels of legionella bacteria requiring immediate cleaning and disinfection.
“We have asked them to do a cleaning and disinfection and those sites we have followed up on as well, and we have resampled as well and will be resampling on a number of occasions to make sure that was effective,” says Leger.
During the 2019 legionnaires’ outbreak in Moncton, Leger strongly recommended a water cooling tower registry, as well as maintenance regulations, be implemented across New Brunswick to help mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.
More than two years after recommendations were made, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell says one is in the works.
“It will be a formal, regulated system so whatever legislation or changes to regulations need to happen, that’s what will happen,” Russell told CTV News via Zoom.
Russell says no timeline has been set.
McGill University professor, Sebastien Faucher, has been studying legionella bacteria for more than a decade. He says despite the current outbreak not necessarily being linked to a cooling tower, precautions should still be put in place immediately to reduce the risk of any future outbreaks.
“If nothing is done, there’s no regulation, if we don’t have a good registry of potential sources, then that will happen again,” says Faucher.
Faucher says it can be extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of an outbreak.
“Having both registry and mandatory testing really helps to figure out where the source is, and also reducing the risk because now people will treat their cooling towers and will do testing and whenever you have a spike in legionella, you will treat it.”
Public health says test results from the three other infected individuals are expected later this week.
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