OHS Canada Magazine

Legionnaires’ disease could be connected to N.S. hospital’s cooling system

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August 3, 2023
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety air quality Indoor Air Quality

Nova Scotia health officials say a recent outbreak of legionnaires’ disease in the New Glasgow area could be connected to bacteria in a cooling tower at a local hospital.

Public Health said in a statement that final test results are not in, but a cooling tower at the Aberdeen Hospital has been identified as a possible source of Legionella bacteria, which causes legionnaires’ disease.

As of Thursday, there were nine confirmed cases of the disease and 20 unconfirmed cases in the area, including a handful of confirmed and potential cases at the Glen Haven Manor nursing home next to the hospital.

The statement says the cooling tower, a key component of the hospital’s air conditioning system, will remain off until test results are received.

Bethany McCormick, Nova Scotia Health’s vice-president of operations for the northern zone, said the provincial health authority cleaned out the hospital’s cooling tower with chlorine, “which generally is an immediate solution.”


Nova Scotia Health says there is “very low health risk” associated with the hospital, noting the disease can’t be spread from person to person.

The disease is spread from breathing in the bacteria via mist or water vapour from a contaminated water source, such as evaporating cooling systems, hot tubs and decorative water features.

Legionnaires’ disease rarely causes severe illness, the province says, but people over 40, people who smoke and people who have chronic health conditions are at an increased risk.


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