The outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Quebec City finally appears to be nearing its end. But in its wrath, the outbreak sickened 176 people, killing 11, in one of the deadliest Legionnaires’ disease incidents in recent memory. The last patient to become sick first began experiencing symptoms on August 29, which indicates that the outbreak could be over, given the fact that we are at the end of the 10-12 day incubation period for Legionella. Still, while everyone in Quebec can breathe easier (literally and figuratively), the investigation is still ongoing as the focus is now on identifying the cause of this devastating outbreak and how another can be prevented.
The key to finding the source of the outbreak is matching biological samples (taken from patients) to environmental samples (taken from potential sources). Thus far, it is reported that nine patients had Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1, pulsuvar A. Labs are culturing bacteria sampled from the 129 cooling towers in the region where the outbreak occurred. While there is no guarantee that a clear source will be identified in this process, officials hope that a match of samples will help them determine the cause of the outbreak. Questions remain for many victims, family members, officials, and the general public: Where did the outbreak begin and what started it? How could it have been prevented and was anybody at fault? How can the public be reassured that it won’t happen again? With ongoing investigations, it is important that all of these questions are addressed so that Quebec City can move on from this tragedy.
Jules Zacher is an attorney who focuses on Legionnaires’ disease litigation and has worked on cases throughout the U.S. His website, www.legionnairelawyer.com is a resource for information on Legionnaires’ disease, and related litigation.