N.B. health officials test cooling towers for legionnaires' bacteria
Moncton health officials say crews have begun testing cooling towers in the area for legionnaires’ bacteria.
On Wednesday, crews collected samples from cooling towers in the west end of the city – the main source of their investigation, where 26 buildings have been identified for inspection.
Regional medical officer of health, Dr. Yves Leger, says cooling towers are prone to be contaminated with legionnaires’ bacteria, noting the infection can spread as they produce mists in the air. However, he also mentions that not all cooling towers are to blame.
"Out of those, we have staff from the city of Moncton going to verify those to see if there’s actually a cooling tower or not,” says Leger. “There’s different types of cooling towers and some pose a risk to legionnaires’ disease and others don’t."
More than half of the cooling towers have been inspected. While some samples have been sent to the lab, health officials are also using a faster method of testing called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing
"A water sample is collected, and then it’s put in this little machine here which will basically remove the dead bacteria from the live,” says Leger. “Then that gets put into a small cartridge that goes into a little box, and that box is connected to a computer and that will basically test for the presence of live legionnaires’ bacteria.”
The number of legionnaires’ cases in Moncton remains at nine; all of which have been confirmed as people either residing or working in in the city.
Dr. Leger says the pneumonia-like disease can be deadly 10-15 per cent of the time; with elderly people and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions most at risk.
Meanwhile, there are no specific recommendations being made to the public, and the Department of Health emphasizes the risk of infection is still low. However, they note it will take weeks for most of the lab results to come back and warn anyone experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms to see a doctor as soon as possible.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kate Walker