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Investigation fails to find source of legionnaires' disease outbreak in New Brunswick

MONCTON, N.B. — Officials investigating an outbreak last August of legionnaires' disease in Moncton that killed one person and sent seven to hospital have completed their probe without finding a common source of the infections.
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MONCTON, N.B. — Officials investigating an outbreak last August of legionnaires' disease in Moncton that killed one person and sent seven to hospital have completed their probe without finding a common source of the infections.

Regional medical officer of health Dr. Yves Leger told reporters Wednesday that industrial cooling towers in the city were suspected as the cause, but he said testing failed to confirm them as the source. A total of nine people fell ill.

Officials started testing towers in the western part of the city and expanded their probe to all of the greater Moncton area, he said, adding that it's possible the infections were not linked.

"From testing all towers within the greater Moncton area, it is unclear where they got their infection at this time, and we can't say for sure they are connected to each other," Leger said. "It is possible we are dealing with cases not linked to one another — what we call sporadic cases."

A number of towers, however, carried low levels of bacteria and required cleaning and disinfection. Leger said at least three different strains of the legionnaires' disease bacteria were found, which he said led him to believe there was so single source for the cases.

He said he didn't think Moncton residents are currently at risk.

Legionnaires' disease can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, aches and pains, and it can be fatal in roughly 10 per cent to 15 per cent of cases. An outbreak in Moncton in 2019, which caused 16 people to become ill, was traced back to a cooling tower at cannabis producer Organigram.

Leger said investigators will do a final debrief and prepare a report, but he said he didn't expect any new recommendations will be made.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2021.

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton. 

The Canadian Press