According to CBC News, in two instances Quebec City’s health department waited days before notifying the public about the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the city. The outbreak eventually killed 13 people, sickening over 180 people in the city. On July 26, 2012, according to CBC News, Quebec City officials confirmed the outbreak, but did not notify the public until five days later. In addition, a press conference in August—one that delivered crucial updates about the outbreak to the public—took four days to plan. Despite the seemingly slow pace taken by the health department in terms of delivering information to the public, Dr. Francois Desbiens, of the health department said: “we would do the same thing now with the information that we had at the time.”
It is understandable that the health department would try to deal with the outbreak systematically and release information to the public in a controlled way. However, waiting five days to first notify the public about the outbreak seems like too long a wait. The information would alert doctors to look for signs of Legionnaires’ disease and make better diagnoses. It would also alert the public of the risk and for people with symptoms to contact their medical providers. Clearly, there is a happy medium between strategic and calculated communications on the part of the health department, and quick notification to help the public and possibly save lives.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates on this story.