Frequently Asked Questions

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is an uncommon infection of the lungs (pneumonia) caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria are commonly found in the environment, particularly water and soil. Infection occurs two to 10 days after a person breathes in the bacteria in contaminated water vapours or dust.

What are the symptoms?

People with Legionnaires’ disease usually get sick between two and 10 days after being infected.  Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to those of the flu and include fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath. Some people also have muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite and diarrhoea.

Who is at risk?

The risk of contracting Legionella pneumophila at Karratha Health Campus is very low.

Legionnaires’ disease most often affects middle-aged and older people, particularly those who smoke or who have chronic lung disease.  People whose immune systems are suppressed by medications or diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, diabetes or AIDS are also at increased risk.

How is it caused?

There are many different species of Legionella bacteria but the two most common in Australia are Legionella pneumophila (found in water) and Legionella longbeachae (found in soil). Legionella pneumophila is not transmitted from person to person.  It is usually picked up from water systems like air conditioning units, cooling towers, pools, baths and showers.

Historically, one of the most common modes of infection from the Legionella pneumophila bacteria has been through air conditioning cooling towers.  There are no air conditioning cooling towers at Karratha Health Campus; the system is air cooled.  This means there is no mechanism to contract this infection from the air conditioning system in this building.

The bacteria was detected in the water system which has been flushed, treated, chlorinated and retested and the campus has now been given the all clear.

How did you discover Legionella in Karratha Health Campus?

Scheduled water testing led to the detection of legionella at Karratha Health Campus.

Is the water at Karratha Health Campus safe?

Yes.  The water at Karratha Health Campus meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011).