An 89-year-old woman yesterday became the 21st person victim of legionnaires' disease. The 89-year-old woman resident of the Seven Oaks nursing home in Toronto's east end died Monday morning in hospital, Toronto health officials said.
Last week investigators confirmed the outbreak originated in the nursing home's air conditioning cooling tower when contaminated droplets were distributed into the air by the cooling system and then sucked into the ventilation system's air intake.
Health officials ordered the cooling tower shut down Oct. 6 when the disease was detected, and said there's been no risk to the public since then.
The investigation is continuing, but there's no evidence the building's cooling tower was not properly maintained.
Legionnaires` Disease, undiscovered till 1976, has highlighted the need to keep air conditioners clean.
This disease is a form of pneumonia and is usually contracted by inhaling mist from water sources such as whirlpool baths, showers and cooling towers that are contaminated with Legionella bacteria.
Though domestic air conditioners have never been found to cause Legionnaires Disease, two types of domestic systems, ducted and mobile, which use water as a coolant, can provide ideal conditions for the organism to multiply. For this reason the West Australian Health Department now advises that evaporative air coolers, commonly used in smaller commercial premises and in homes, should also be cleaned regularly.
One popular type of air-conditioner, the window-type, which uses refrigerated air instead of evaporated water, cannot collect the bacteria and therefore presents no risk of Legionnaires Disease.
In its own habitat it is not known to be harmful to humans. It is only when it is found in man made situations that the bacteria can multiply in large quantities and become dangerous (only if the bacteria is breathed into the lungs).
If inhaled, the bacteria may cause infection. However, the disease is not transmitted from person to person.
The organism is so common that many Australians, roughly a third according to several independent tests, have antibodies in their blood. This indicates contact with the organism at some stage in their lives, though without showing any obvious symptoms.
Medindia on Pneumonia:
Pneumonia is infection of one or both lungs which is usually caused by a microorganism which can be either a bacteria, virus or fungus. Discovery of antibiotics in the last 50 years has dramatically improved the treatment of pneumonia.
Pneumonia is one of the commonest causes of hospitalization and death in young children and elderly population.