Legionnaires disease contracted at Port Hedland

A Jan De Nul worker at the Fortescue Metals Group camp in South Hedland has spent a week in hospital fighting for his life after contracting legionnaire’s disease.

The man was diagnosed while staying at the camp earlier this month, and was immediately flown to Perth for treatment after his symptoms began to rapidly deteriorate, according to the North West Telegraph.

Legionnaire pneumophilia is a rare type of the disease, which develops within two to 10 days of coming into contact with legionella pneumophila bacteria, which is associated with warm water environments like cooling towers, potting mix and compost, and generally warm, damp places.

The man had travelled from Singapore on a JDN vessel and spent several weeks in February working on a dredge in Port Hedland.

A spokesman for FMG claimed that the camp had no sources from which the man could have caught the disease.

"Potential sources of legionnaires' disease – evaporative air-conditioning units and potting mix – do not exist at Hamilton Village," he said.

"As a precautionary measure we are undertaking testing around the site."

JDN assistant area manager Boudewijn van de Veire said testing was being conducted on the dredging barge.

"The warm water systems (on the barge) are treated in accordance with the fresh water manuals onboard which outline effective management measures," he said.

WA Country Health Service public health physician Dr Heather Lyttle said the disease is not contagious between people, and that legionella pneumophila  causes less than 20 per cent of the 50 to 95 cases of legionnaires reported in Western Australia each year, with most cases caused by longbeachae bacteria.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache (often severe), shortness of breath, muscle aches and pains and sometimes a dry cough.

Most people who are exposed to the bacteria do not fall ill, and contracting the disease is extremely rare among young people and children.

Although evaporative air conditioning units are often blamed as a source of legionnaires bacteria, these have not been known to cause the disease.


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