Portuguese authorities said cooling towers at a fertiliser plant were the likely source of an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease that has killed five people and infected over 200, making it one of the world’s largest outbreaks.
Environment Minister Jorge Moreira da Silva said on Tuesday that all cooling towers in the affected area near Lisbon had been shut since Sunday.
Health Minister Paulo Macedo said the detection of new cases was decelerating, but there would be more in the coming days.
Data released late on Monday showed the number of those infected had jumped to 233 from 160 the previous day, and one more person had died. Three dozen were in intensive care.The authorities were investigating the “possible environmental crime of releasing microorganisms” into the air by Adubos de Portugal, a unit of Spanish company Fertiberia, in the affected area of Vila Franca de Xira, according to Moreira da Silva.
Company officials were not available for comment.
He said samples collected in the last few days allowed the authorities to “consider with a large degree of certainty that [the bacteria] are associated with cooling towers, not with the water network, and in particular with one installation”.
Four parishes in Vila Franca de Xira, about 25km northeast of Lisbon, had the greatest concentration of cases. One was a man who had worked on the fertiliser plant’s cooling tower.
The disease is contracted by breathing in a mist or vapour contaminated with the Legionella bacteria, which can grow in cooling towers, showers, hot tubs and other water sources.
While the flare-up is not the world’s deadliest, it is the third-largest by confirmed cases after the 2001 outbreak in Spain, with some 450 cases and six dead, and the 1999 outbreak in the Netherlands, when 32 people died and more than 300 were infected.
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We can supply fit and maintain dosing control equipment, chemicals for scale/corrision inhibitors and biocide treatments. Our 30 years in the industry mean we have the capability and knowledge to trouble shoot for clients and make quick and effective changes to any treatments which may not be effective in certain areas.
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