Legionella in Ghent: 11 people in hospital, 3 in intensive care
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Legionella in Ghent: 11 people in hospital, 3 in intensive care

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A Legionella epidemic broke out in the municipality of Evergem, next to Ghent, on Friday, according to the Agency for Care and Health. Eleven people with the Legionella bacteria have already been admitted to the Sint-Lucas hospital, three of them are in intense care. Legionella is a pathogenic group of bacteria that leads to Legionnaires’ disease.

The patients started getting the first symptoms in the period from 29 April to 6 May. “Since all the sick people have started to get sick in the same relatively short period of time, we suspect that the source of the Legionella infection is now under control. However, the situation is being closely monitored,” said spokesperson of the agency Joris Moonens to Het Nieuwsblad.

The agency is trying to identify the source of the infection by looking for common places all the patients have been, probably located somewhere in the Evergem region. Additionally, the agency is taking samples for the cooling towers in the Canal zone.

“We currently have no indication as to what the source of the contamination may have been. It is often no longer possible to trace this when the infection only has a short duration,” said Moonens.

The legionella bacteria develops primarily in warm, stagnant water. People with low resistance have the highest risk of contracting an infection, and infected people can subsequently develop pneumonia. Other symptoms are muscle aches, rapidly emerging headaches, a dry cough, diarrhoea, nausea and fever. Last year, 100 Flemish people became infected with the bacteria, and four Flemish people die every year.

The disease can cause permanent injuries and can even be fatal, but can – if you are quick enough – usually be treated with antibiotics.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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