Alberta Health Services is investigating six recent confirmed cases of legionnaire’s disease (Legionellosis) in the hope of identifying the source of the Legionella bacteria.

Between November 18 and November 23, 2012, six people became ill in the Calgary area.  Over the next two weeks, all six contracted pneumonia, a serious respiratory illness, and required hospitalization. 

Health officials believe all six patients were exposed to the Legionella bacteria prior to their initial illness.

The bacteria is not passed from person to person and AHS representatives say the confirmed cases in the six patients pose no risk to the general public.

"Although the risk of contracting legionnaires’ disease is generally considered to be very low, this recent cluster of illness is unusual, particularly at this time of year,” says Dr. Judy MacDonald, Medical Officer of Health for the Calgary Zone. “By swiftly establishing a multidisciplinary investigation team, we have infectious diseases, public health, infection prevention and control, and microbiology experts collaborating to ensure all avenues of inquiry are covered.”

Legionnellosis is contracted by humans when water containing large amounts of the bacteria becomes aerosolized and is inhaled.  This process is most likely to occur in showers, fountains or humidifiers.  AHS is reviewing possible aerosolized water sources.

Health officials have advised physicians of the outbreak and are asking the doctors to consider legionnaires’ disease when a patient exhibits Legionellosis symptoms.  Symptoms may include unexplained respiratory illnesses, headaches, malaise, fever, chills, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Since 2004, there have been 39 confirmed cases of legionnaire’s disease in the Calgary region.