Public health authorities announced on Wednesday that they have pinpointed the probable source of the fatal outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in Quebec City: a commercial-office building in the downtown centre of the provincial capital.
Laboratory technicians were able to match blood samples from 16 out of 17 patients who fell ill from the respiratory illness with water samples taken from the rooftop cooling tower at 320 Saint-Joseph St. E. That property houses the offices of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, and is next door to the Bibliothèque Gabrielle-Roy.
The strain found in the 16 patients is Legionnella pneumophila serogroup 1, pulsovar A. Authorities took two samples from the building at 320 Saint-Joseph, on Aug. 21 and on Aug. 28 — during the peak of the outbreak. Those two samples contained “large quantities” of the exact genetic strain of the deadly bacterium, explained Pascale St-Pierre, a spokesperson for the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de la Capitale-Nationale.
“We don’t know if it’s the source or among the sources of the outbreak,” St-Pierre said. “What we know is that we found an exact match, and we know that this building is located in the priority perimeter of the outbreak.
“All the cases were documented, and we know that people were either working in that area, living in that area, visiting that area or shopping in that area.”
Authorities received the lab results Tuesday afternoon, and ordered the owner of the building to shut the ventilation fans, even though the cooling tower has been decontaminated.