17 September 2012
Legionnaires’ disease in Blanes, Costa Brava, Spain - update
The source of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease is currently being investigated in the city of Blanes, Catalonia on Spain’s Costa Brava .
As of 14 September, ten cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported in persons who had recently visited or stayed in Blanes. All the cases became ill between 28 August and 3 September 2012. Six cases are Spanish, three Dutch and one Latvian. Three cases had stayed at a local campsite, one had visited the campsite and the remaining cases had visited homes in the area .
Water systems and cooling towers at the campsite have been disinfected. Samples from possible infection sources are being investigated and results are awaited [1-2].
Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial infection usually causing pneumonia. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, and fever; gastrointestinal upset can also occur. The disease is more frequent in the elderly, smokers and those with pre-existing lung disease or chronic medical conditions.
Legionella spp. bacteria are distributed widely in the environment. They can live in many types of water including natural sources such as rivers and streams, and in artificial sources such as water-cooling towers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools. Tourists can become exposed to the bacteria if the water systems are not properly maintained and become contaminated.
Further information about Legionnaire’s disease is available in NaTHNaC’s Health Information sheet: Legionellosis.
Advice for travellers
The risk to most travellers to Blanes is low, and no special precautions are currently advised by Catalonian public health authorities.
Travellers visiting Blanes who develop an influenza-like illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath) during their stay or up to 14 days after their return home, and who believe they may be infected, should seek medical care for appropriate investigations and possible treatment. There are several effective antibiotics.
Advice for health professionals
Legionnaires’ disease should be considered as a potential diagnosis for cases of atypical pneumonia throughout the year. When appropriate symptoms are present, a history of travel should act as a specific prompt for clinicians to evaluate for Legionella infection.
Information for health professionals assessing individuals with suspected Legionnaires’ disease is available from the Health Protection Agency.
1. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Epidemiological Update: Outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Blanes, Catalonia, Spain. 14 September, 2012. [Accessed 17 September, 2012]. Available at: http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/press/news/Lists/News/ECDC_Disp
2. Generalitat de Catalunya. L’Agencia de Salut Pública investiga l’origen de vuit casos de legionel-losi declarats aquesta setmana a Blanes. 10 September 2012. [In Catalan] [Accessed 17 September 2012]. Available at: http://premsa.gencat.cat/pres_fsvp/AppJava/notapremsavw/
NaTHNaC Health Information Sheet: Legionellosis
Health Protection Agency: Legionnaires’ Disease
Health Protection Agency: Guidelines for investigating single cases of Legionnaires’ disease.