Legionella outbreak hospitalises five, one in intensive care, in Portuguese municipality of Caminha

Image of medical test tube labelled 'legionella'.

Image of medical test tube labelled 'legionella'. Credit: Jarun Ontakrai/Shutterstock.com

FIVE people have been hospitalised with legionella symptoms in the Portuguese municipality of Caminha.

As revealed at a press conference this Tuesday, November 14, by Luís Delgado, an Alto Minho health official, the authorities are continuing to investigate the origin of the infection also known as Legionnaires’ disease.

He confirmed that one of the six patients had been admitted to an intensive care unit. The majority of patients: ‘live 500/600 metres’ from an area of ​​Vila Praia de Âncora that is being investigated, along with other areas that are also under suspicion Delgado added.

‘It could be an area where there may be air conditioning, a fountain, or sprinkler equipment that could generate airborne droplets’, he explained.

‘A large team, from environmental health and public health, are working on the ground identifying the situations’, he continued. ‘The first phase is suspicion. Then we have to confirm whether the suspicion is confirmed’, Delgado detailed.

The official refused to confirm whether municipal equipment had already been discarded as being the source of the contamination, reported sicnoticias.pt.

However, he did confirm that: ‘There are several suspicions in Vila Praia de Âncora’, a parish in the municipality of Caminha, in the Viana do Castelo district.

How many people have been taken ill?

In written information distributed to journalists, the existence of ‘six reported cases’ of legionella was mentioned. Of this number, five were said to have been hospitalised, with: ‘one scheduled to be discharged today’.

A 60-year-old woman was reportedly admitted to intensive care, with Delgado stating that: ‘A bedridden lady’ was still infected.

‘The patient was contaminated by airborne droplets’, insisted Luís Delgado. He added that: ‘most of the patients live in Vila Praia de Âncora, and one in Vilarelho’, and all ‘have no family connection’.

What are the symptoms of legionella?

As the health official explained, the symptoms of legionella are: ‘like the flu, with fever, headaches, cough or shortness of breath. The difference is that, in this case, the infection is not caused by a virus, but by a bacteria’.

Rui Lages, the mayor of Caminha informed Lusa that the six people identified in this outbreak of legionella were between 52 and 92 years old.

He also indicated that an ‘environmental investigation’ had been initiated by the health authorities to identify the origin of the infection.

According to the information provided by Delgado, the first case was notified to health authorities last Friday 10, with the sixth case identified today.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacteria ‘Legionella pneumophila’. It is contracted by inhaling droplets of contaminated water vapour so small that they transport the bacteria to the lungs, depositing it in the pulmonary alveoli.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com