Disease traced to dirty spa pool

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2014

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Two cases of legionnaires' disease were linked to the same motel spa pool in Hokitika that had not been kept clean and maintained.

An Environmental Science and Research (ESR) report drew the link between the two 2013 cases of the disease.

In March 2013, a 79-year-old Christchurch man contracted legionnaires' disease, but his home showed no potential sources of the infection. The man reported that he had travelled to Hokitika, so Community and Public Health (CPH) staff checked the motel he had stayed at. Though samples of the water, including the hot water cylinder, were tested - the spa pool was not.

Six months later, a 65-year-old Hokitika woman was reported to have been infected by the same strain of Legionella. Tests of her home found no potential source of infection, but the woman said she regularly used the spa pool at the same motel the Christchurch man stayed in.

Further questions showed he had also used the spa pool, which was then tested and was found to have the same strain of Legionella.

Legionnaires' disease can be particularly dangerous in the elderly. Both cases required hospitalisation.

Although it was a small outbreak, ESR said its setting in a tourist town motel could potentially have been more serious.

The motel owner did not have training in basic spa pool maintenance, ESR said. On advice from CPH staff, he closed the pool, thoroughly cleaned it and underwent a training regime to learn proper maintenance.

ESR recommended that spa pools should always be considered as a potential source of Legionella infection.

Legionella pneumophila is a bacteria that causes respiratory illness. It can be found in water and soil, including potting mix.

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