Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Portugal

As of 13 November 2014 (17:00), the Directorate-General for Health of Portugal has reported a total of 311 cases of Legionnaires' disease, all of which have epidemiological links to Vila Franca de Xira, a suburban area of Lisbon. So far, seven deaths have been confirmed to be caused by the disease.

The first 17 cases were identified between 6 and 7 November, and the National IHR Focal Point for Portugal notified WHO of this outbreak on 9 November 2014.

This is the biggest Legionella disease outbreak detected in Portugal, and it is evolving rapidly. The outbreak is therefore considered to be a major public health emergency.
The Directorate-General for Health of Portugal has issued precautionary recommendations to the population, and is liaising with the national agencies for health, environment and meteorology. It is also maintaining close communication and collaboration with partners in the European Union, in particular, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and with the World Health Organization. WHO/Europe and its European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany, stand ready to mobilize experts, if required.

About Legionellosis

Legionellosis is a collection of infections that emerged in the second half of the 20th century, and are caused by Legionella pneumophila and related Legionella bacteria. The severity of legionellosis varies from mild febrile illness (Pontiac fever) to a potentially fatal form of pneumonia (Legionnaires’ disease) that can affect anyone, but principally affects those who are susceptible due to age, illness, immunosuppression or other risk factors, such as smoking. Water is the major natural reservoir for legionellae, and infection results from inhalation of contaminated water sprays or mists.

The bacteria are found worldwide in many different natural and artificial aquatic environments at temperatures of 20–50 °C (optimal 35–46 °C), such as cooling towers; water systems in hotels, homes, ships and factories; respiratory therapy equipment; fountains; misting devices; and spa pools.

There is no direct person-to-person transmission.