Alarm in Bremen: man dies of legionella
There is currently a Legionella alarm in Bremen. As reported by the Senate press office, 17 cases have been reported since February 17 that one patient has died of pneumonia caused by the bacteria. It is now suspected that the cause could be a recooling system that releases Legionella in the water vapor into the environment.
Seventeen cases since mid-February
Cases of severe legionella have been occurring in Bremen since February 17. To date (Friday, March 4, 2016), according to a statement by the Senator for Science, Health and Consumer Protection, Prof. Dr. Eva Quante-Brandt (SPD), 17 cases have been reported. An 84-year-old patient had died of pneumonia caused by Legionella. The remaining patients would be hospitalized, some of them would even be in the intensive care unit and be in mortal danger, the head of the health department, Monika Lelgemann, told the news agency "dpa".
Identification of large industrial air conditioning systems is difficult
According to the Senate's announcement, all cases had occurred in western Bremen. Because of this, the health and trade inspectorate would now suspect that a so-called "recooling system" could be the trigger for the Legionella outbreak. These are systems in which the cooling takes place by evaporation of water, whereby water vapor is released into the environment. However, it is extremely difficult to identify such plants "because they are not subject to approval or reporting under emissions protection law," the senator informed. However, aerial photographs would currently help to identify such wet cooling systems on roofs, and companies would still be contacted by phone and chambers and associations would be informed.
Infection from drinking water is not possible
"It is important that these systems are now disinfected as a precaution," the senator asked the operator. According to the experts from the health authority, there is no evidence of an alternative cause. According to this, domestic drinking water samples for Legionella were negative in all patients. Similarly, surveys of the sick had found no common ground with regard to visits to certain swimming pools, sows, etc.
Already in November last year there was a cluster of severe legionella diseases in Bremen with a total of 19 people affected. Even then, an 84-year-old man died of the consequences. Despite intensive investigations, the cause of the outbreak could not be elucidated - but in the current cases, a strain of the pathogen has been identified that had already appeared at the end of 2015, the Senate said.
Human-to-human transmission is unknown The legionella bacteria are globally distributed and heat-loving bacteria that occur in fresh water. Almost 50 species are currently known, which multiply best at temperatures between 30 ° C and 45 ° C and are transmitted via atomized, atomized water. However, infection only occurs when water vapor (aerosols) contaminated with Legionella is inhaled. Possible sources of infection are therefore e.g. Showers, humidifiers, waterfalls in swimming pools, whirlpools or air conditioning systems. However, according to the Senator for Science, Health and Consumer Protection, no transmission of legionella disease from person to person is known. Drinking water can also be consumed safely, "since an infection via the gastrointestinal tract does not occur," the message continues.
Legionella can trigger severe form of pneumonia. If an infection does occur, it can remain asymptomatic, but it can also cause flu-like symptoms or, in an emergency, the so-called "Legionnaires' disease" (med. "Legionella pneumonia"). This is a severe form of pneumonia, which is characterized above all by rapid chest and headaches, cough, chills and high fever. In addition to this, drowsiness, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting can also occur. Legionella pneumonia often takes a severe course and usually takes several weeks to heal completely. According to the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), the disease can be fatal in about one in ten people affected. (No)