International Health News

Saunas and Legionnaire's disease

HAARLEM, THE NETHERLANDS. Dutch doctors report six cases of Legionnaire's disease linked to a sauna which was found to harbour Legionella pneumophila bacteria. Suspicion arose when a 64-year-old man was admitted to hospital with pneumonia in January 1996. The man had developed flu-like symptoms five days after visiting a sauna and a culture of his bronchial fluid tested positive for L pneumophila. Analysis of water samples from various spots in and around the sauna found L pneumophila in a footbath. A further survey of health-surveillance data on Legionnaire's disease uncovered five more cases, two of which were fatal, among people who had used the sauna. The genetic profile of the L pneumophila strains found in the patients were the same as the strain located in the footbath. The sauna's hot water piping was redesigned to eliminate standing and slow-flowing water. Since then water samples have tested negative for L pneumophila and no new cases of Legionnaire's disease have been reported relating to the sauna.
Den Boer, J.W., et al. Legionnaire's disease and saunas. The Lancet, January 10, 1998, p. 114

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