Health officials warn symptoms of Covid similar to legionnaires’ following two detected cases in Cranbourne East

Health officials warn symptoms of Covid similar to legionnaires’ following two detected cases in Cranbourne East

Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sarah MatraySource:News Corp Australia

Victorian health teams are scrambling to locate the source of an outbreak, but this time it’s different to Covid-19.

Victorian health teams are “swinging into action” to locate the source of two community cases of legionnaires’ disease after the infections were detected in Melbourne’s southeast.

State deputy chief health officer professor Ben Cowie warned symptoms of the life-threatening condition were similar to Covid-19 and clinicians would need to “draw the net wider” when testing people for coronavirus.

“The symptoms can be similar in the early stages of the illness … things like shortness of breath, headache, fevers, fatigue, they’re quite common to both (legionnaires’ and Covid-19),” he told reporters on Thursday.

“One message to our clinicians out there is if someone is presenting with symptoms that could be consistent with Covid they absolutely must be tested and treated on the basis that they could have Covid, but we need to obviously draw the net wider and think about other cases.”

The Victorian health department alerted the public after two legionnaires’ cases who lived in the Cranbourne East area were reported to authorities on Wednesday – both required hospital treatment.

Local cooling towers, pools and spas are being tested to find the source of the outbreak.

“Legionella can be a life-threatening condition,” Mr Cowie warned.

He also said cases of legionnaires’ had not been prominent in the community until the two cases cropped up on Wednesday.

“That’s partly for the same reason that influenza is less frequent and a lot of the other respiratory illnesses because people are just not moving around to the same degree,” Mr Cowie said.

“Obviously, people aren’t attending workplaces to the same degree, but it is certainly something we’ve got to keep an eye on.”

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by legionella bacteria, which are widespread in the environment, in natural water bodies such as rivers, lakes, creeks and hot springs.

The bacteria is also found in spas, potting mix, warm water systems and artificial systems that use water for cooling, heating or industrial processes, such as cooling towers.

People can catch it by breathing in fine droplets of water that contain the bacteria. It cannot be caught from another person or by drinking contaminated water.

Those at greater risk include people aged over 65, smokers, heavy drinkers, those with chronic lung disease and underlying conditions such as diabetes, cancer or kidney failure.

There is no vaccine to prevent the disease, but early diagnosis and treatment with appropriate antibiotics can reduce the severity of illness and complications.

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