South Australia (SA) Health have been notified that 12 cases of Legionella longbeachae have occurred since the beginning of November. This is concerning as there were 23 confirmed cases reported to SA Health in all of 2012.
Professor Paddy Phillips, SA Health Chief Medical Officer, said that L. longbeachae can infect the lungs and cause pneumonia. The effect of L. longbeachae is very similar to the more common cause of Legionnaires’ disease, Legionella pneumophila, and symptoms can include fever, cough, chest pain, and breathlessness.
It is currently summer in Australia now, and according to Professor Phillips, “[a]s the weather warms up, more and more people will be out and about in the garden, handling soil, fertilizers and compost, which are a common breeding grounds for Legionella longbeachae.
Many of these cases that have arisen occurred mostly in people over the age of 40.
In order to reduce Legionella exposure, it is advised that persons working with potting mix, gardening mix, mulch, compost, or other similar garden mixtures:
- Read the warning labels on bagged mixes and follow the instructions
- Wear a face mask and gloves to minimize
- Open and use bagged mixes in well-ventilated areas
- Avoid inhaling airborne dust or mist particles
- Avoid hand-to-mouth contact
- Moisten garden mix to prevent inhaling airborne particles
- Wash hands after using garden mixes.