Flying to Dubai? Legionnaires' disease warning issued

Flying to Dubai? Legionnaires disease warning issued

Dubai - Most of those who contracted the disease stayed in hotels or apartments in Dubai, some as recently as late May.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Tue 4 Jul 2017, 4:18 PM

Last updated: Tue 4 Jul 2017, 6:51 PM

Travellers have been issued a Legionnaires' disease warning after an Irish person contracted the disease on a recent visit to Dubai, international news reports said.

The reports published last week said that though risk of contracting the disease is low, it may be increased for those aged over 50, those with underlying breathing problems or weakened immune systems and smokers.

Most of those who contracted the disease stayed in hotels or apartments in Dubai, some as recently as late May, they said.

Since last October, 65 cases of the disease originating in Dubai have been reported to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, one of them by Ireland, said the Irish Times.

The government of UK also updated its travel advisory but said that the overall risk of Legionnaires' disease for UK travellers to Dubai is low except for persons with established risk factors for Legionnaires' disease.

The paper said that as the source of the outbreak had not been identified, anyone visiting or living in Dubai could still be at risk of exposure to the Legionella bacteria. Local health authorities could not be reached for comments.

Till the end of last year, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported 44 cases in travellers. Cases were reported by the United Kingdom (20 cases), Sweden (6), the Netherlands (5), France (3), Denmark (3), Germany (3), Austria (1), Belgium (1), Hungary (1) and Switzerland (1).

Nine of 44 cases (20 per cent) spent time in another location in UAE or in a country other than their home country during their incubation period. One of the notified cases is reported as a fatal case. All cases are laboratory confirmed, reported ECDPC.

As per ECDPC, UAE authorities have informed that there was no increase observed in notifiable pneumonia cases in Dubai during the period October to December 2016 when these cases were observed.

Public health authorities in the UAE also said that environmental investigations were undertaken at the notified hotels and Legionella count results within the Dubai Municipality showed acceptable levels for water systems (
In 2011, a top hotel in Dubai faced a lawsuit after two guests claimed that they had contracted the disease while staying on the property.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) had then also formed a committee to probe the outbreak.

What is Legionnaires' disease?

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia that usually starts with flu-like symptoms, including fever, tiredness, headache, and muscle pains. These are followed by a dry cough and breathing difficulties, which may progress to a severe pneumonia. The disease is spread through the air from a water source. People become infected when they breathe in tiny droplets of water contaminated with Legionella bacteria. If travellers develop symptoms within two weeks of returning home, they should seek medical care and inform the healthcare provider of the travel history.

Legionnaires' disease is a waterborne disease, associated with man-made water systems. In conditions that are favourable for Legionella growth (such as water temperatures in the range of 25-42°C, stagnant water with sediment build-up, and low biocide levels) the bacteria can multiply. Aerosolisation of such a water supply can cause sporadic cases or outbreaks through inhalation of this aerosol. Cooling towers, evaporative condensers, humidifiers, decorative fountains, whirlpools, showers, etc. are examples of installations with identified risks.

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