Five dead and dozens of patients infected by Legionnaires' in portuguese hospital

The Legionnaires' disease outbreak is thought to have infected over 50 people so far and the source is, as yet, unknown

Legionella pneumophila

An outbreak of the bacterium Legionella pneumophila which started at the beginning of November at the São Francisco Xavier Hospital has infected 54 people so far, killing five people, and leaving others hospitalised in Intensive Care Units, according to the Directorate-General for Health.

The Portuguese health minister Adalberto Campos Fernandes has apologised to the Legionnaire's victims and said in parliament during the discussion about the state budget for health, that they must be compensated for the damage done.

Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in freshwater environments. It can become a danger when it grows and spreads via a building's water systems. The disease is most likely to affect those who are immuno-compromised or suffering from respiratory illnesses.

The cause of this outbreak is still unknown. Veolia Portugal, responsible for the maintenance of the cooling towers of the Hospital of San Francisco Xavier has denied responsibility for the legionella outbreak, saying that everything was "implemented correctly".

An internal investigation is underway. In addition to this internal investigation, Veolia Portugal said that it has requested an independent international level investigation of the entire installation, to verify the condition of the equipment and operation of the system.