Hong Kong investigates case of Legionnaires' disease

The Hong Kong Department of Health's Centre for Health Protection announced on Thursday that it was investigating a case of Legionnaires' disease in Shenzhen.

The patient, an 81-year-old man with underlying illnesses, presented with cough and shortness of breath on February 13. He was admitted to the Accident and Emergency Department of Tuen Mun Hospital on February 16. His condition deteriorated and he was transferred to the intensive care unit on February 17.

After an initial clinical diagnosis of pneumonia, his tracheal aspirate tested positive for Legionella pneumophila in the lab.

The CHP determined the patient returned to Hong Kong on February 16. His home contact in mainland China remained asymptomatic. Investigations by the CHP are ongoing.

The case of Legionnaires' disease is the second reported to the CHP in 2014. There were 28 cases filed in both 2012 and 2013.

According to the CHP, Legionnaires' disease is a bacterial infection that causes dry cough, fever, tiredness, shortness of breath, muscle pain, abdominal pain, headache and diarrhea. In severe cases, respiratory failure and neurological symptoms may occur. Some cases of the disease result in death.

Individuals can become infected by the disease when they are exposed to contaminated droplets and mist generated by artificial water systems. The bacteria can be found in water tanks, cooling towers, whirlpools and spas, water fountains, hot and cold water systems and in home devices that support breathing.

The disease can be treated with antibiotics. There is currently no vaccine available for Legionnaires' disease.