The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) investigates a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Orillia area. In recent weeks, nineteen cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been confirmed in individuals who reside in or have visited the City of Orillia.
Legionnaires’ disease is a lung disease caused by Legionella bacteria, which is commonly found in natural freshwater environments. It can become a health concern in water systems, such as hot tubs, spas, plumbing systems in large buildings, humidifiers, cooling towers, and decorative fountains when conditions allow the bacteria to multiply.
People can develop Legionnaires’ disease when they inhale aerosolized water droplets containing the bacteria. People cannot get Legionnaires’ disease by drinking water, which Legionnaires’ cannot pass from person to person. Most people exposed to the bacteria do not become ill.
“We have had these cases reported to us very recently, indicating the need to investigate and to take steps to reduce the risk of further transmission,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for SMDHU. “The health unit is looking for a source of the bacteria, and health care providers in the community are being notified to watch and test for potential cases.”
The health unit is in talks with community partners, including the City of Orillia, to raise awareness, gather information, and monitor the impacts of the cluster.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by the bacteria. People over 50, smokers, or those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease, or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease. Antibiotics can treat Legionnaires’ disease, and most cases resolve without long-term effects.
Common symptoms of the disease are fever, chills, cough, and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms can also develop, such as headaches, muscle pain, and digestive problems (e.g., loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea).