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October 6, 2005
Statement by Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health Announcement re: Respiratory Outbreak at Seven Oaks Nursing Home
Laboratory testing on autopsy specimens from three residents of Seven Oaks Home
for the Aged were reported this afternoon as positive for Legionella
pneumophila, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires' Disease. This indicates
that the cause of the current outbreak is likely Legionnaires' Disease.

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 breath 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.

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

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.


Legionnaires’ Disease

What is Legionnaires’ Disease? Legionnaires’ Disease (LEE-juh-nares)
is caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella Pneumophillia. Legionella
bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria
grow best in warm water (hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, parts of air
conditioning systems of large buildings). People get Legionnaires’ Disease when
they breath in air contaminated by droplets of water containing the bacteria.

What are the symptoms? Legionnaires' Disease can have symptoms like
many other forms of pneumonia, so it can be hard to diagnose at first. Signs of
the disease can include: a high fever, chills, and a cough. Some people may
also suffer from muscle aches and headaches. These symptoms usually begin 2 to
14 days after being exposed to the bacteria.

How serious is it? Who is at risk? Legionnaires' Disease can be very
mild. This mild type of Legionnaires' Disease lasts two to five days, does not
require treatment and will resolve without further problems. Older (65 years
and older) people are most at risk for serious disease. People who are smokers,
those who have chronic lung disease or weak immune systems (diabetes, cancer,
transplant patients) are also at higher risk. Even with treatment,
Legionnaires' Disease can be fatal in up to 5-30 per cent of people with
pre-existing severe medical problems.

How is it transmitted? Legionella bacteria are NOT spread from one
person to another person. To get infected, you must breath contaminated
droplets from a source of Legionella bacteria. A person diagnosed with
Legionnaires' Disease in the community or the workplace is not a threat to
others who share common space.

Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreaks occur when two or more
people become ill in the same place at the same time.
Legionnaires' Disease was discovered at a convention of the American Legion in
Philladelphia in 1976 when there were many cases of unexplained pneumonia.
Since that time, when groups of people get an unexplained or atypical
pneumonia, doctors think about Legionella. In the past decade there have been
several outbreaks in hospitals, factories, nursing homes and older buildings.

Is there treatment? Most cases can be treated successfully with
antibiotics. Healthy people usually recover from the infection. Older people
with other significant health problems are not able to fight the infection as

What do I do if I think I was exposed to Legionella bacteria? Most
people exposed to the bacteria do not become ill. If you have reason to
believe you were exposed to the bacteria, talk to your doctor or call Toronto
Public Health at 416-338-7600.

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