Toronto Public Health Officials Identify Illness That Killed 16 Nursing Home Residents

Dr. David McKeown, medical officer of Torontos department of health, reports that officials have identified Legionnaires disease as the mystery illness that killed 16 elderly residents of a nursing home in Toronto.

According to McKeown, laboratory testing on autopsy specimens from three residents of Seven Oaks Home for the Aged were reported as positive for Legionella pneumophila. This indicates that the cause of the current outbreak is likely Legionnaires disease, he said.

Legionnaires disease is a form of pneumonia caused by bacteria formed naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water such as hot water tanks, large plumbing systems and air conditioning systems. People get Legionnaires disease when they breathe in air contaminated by droplets of water containing the bacteria. Legionnaires disease is not transmitted from person to person. Most cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics, although older people with underlying health conditions are more likely to become seriously ill and die.

The Legionnaires disease at Seven Oaks is confined to the nursing home. Because Legionnaires disease is not transmitted from person to person, there is no risk to the general community, McKeown explained. There have been no new cases of infection for the past two days and it appears that transmission of the illness has subsided. There have been no further deaths.

Further testing will be carried out to confirm these findings. In the meantime, Toronto Public Health is taking immediate action to protect the health of residents and staff:

-- All staff and residents will be offered preventive antibiotics.

-- All staff and residents will be monitored and receive blood tests to identify any additional cases.

-- Comprehensive environmental investigation is immediately underway to identify the source of bacteria.

-- The ventilation system will be shut down for inspection and samples will be taken for analysis.

-- Bottled water will be brought in for staff and residents.

Any further action will be determined by the findings of the investigation.

Source: Toronto Public Health

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