Outbreak in Spain: Deadly legionnaires' disease

According to reports from Spain, at least 12 persons have been infected with a strain of legionella, which causes legionellosis, which in its more severe form is known as Legionaires’ disease, so called because of a deadly outbreak of the bacteria at a 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia PA. As confirmed by Madrid’s office of sanitation,  a restaurant in Móstoles (a town near Madrid) is the proximate source of the contagion. Another 13 cases are currently being studied, having begun to show symptoms. Epidemiological studies have shown that those people now affected had visited a restaurant in an industrial area of Mostoles.

A hotel in Calp, a seaside resort town in Valencia, was where five tourists from Madrid had shown already symptoms of the deadly disease. According to official sources, these patients are recovering. Eleven persons in all were affected in Calp. Several of those affected were tourists from Belgium who have now returned home. This is the second outbreak for legionellosis at the Diamond Beach hotel in Calp. It was in January 2012 that 18 persons came down with the illness. Three British tourists died as a result.

Tourists who stayed at the hotel are outraged and are demanding answers. Apparently, the deadly bacterium was discovered at the hotel spa. Health authorities shut down the hotel on July 2, causing the 300 guests to look for other lodgings.

Of the 12 confirmed and 13 possible cases of legionella, there are 18 men and 7 women who range in age from 35 to 87. They are being treated various hospitals, including the Prince of Asturias Hospital, Móstoles Hospital, and the King Juan Carlos Hospital.

The patients predominantly show symptoms of pneumonia, which are varied according to the risk factors present in each patient.

Symptoms were noted in late June, and by June 27 local health authorities took samples from the refrigeration and water sources at Marisquería Moreno II in Móstoles. Inspectors have fanned out from the restaurant to the surrounding neighborhood in search for sources of contagion. Health authorities fear that more cases of the deadly disease may soon arise.

Legionellosis is a potentially fatal and infectious disease caused by the legionella bacterium. It can cause the well-known Legionnaires’ disease (a.k.a. Legion fever) or a milder malady known as Pontiac fever.  Legionnaires’ disease is characterized by high fever and pneumonia, while Pontiac fever is a milder respiratory infection without pneumonia that resembles a severe flu.

Spanish authorities are taking the latest outbreak seriously, since it was in 2010 that one of Spain’s worst outbreaks of legionelosis took place in Madrid. In that case, six persons died. The 2010 outbreak was three times more deadly than all those that took place from 1999 to 2009.

The restaurant in Móstoles, Marisquería Moreno II, is open for business despite the scare. The proprietor told local media that its business as usual at his establishment. The owner confirmed that there are no refrigeration towers at his restaurant but would not say what is the focus of the health inspectors’ attention. The restaurant has not yet been closed by the local sanitation authorities.



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under entertainment, science, history, spain, health, science, tourism, North America

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