Walmart closes B.C. shop as Fraser Health digs into Legionnaires' disease source | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Walmart closes B.C. shop as Fraser Health digs into Legionnaires' disease source

September 07, 2018 - 5:02 PM

SURREY, B.C. - Walmart Canada says it has closed one of its stores in Surrey, B.C., out of "an abundance of caution" following a small outbreak of legionnaires' disease.

Anika Malik, the company's director of corporate affairs, said in an email that Walmart was contacted by the health authority investigating the source of the disease and chose to close its store at Guildford Town Centre voluntarily.

Fraser Health say seven cases of the respiratory infection have been confirmed in the past two weeks.

The authority has identified the bacteria that causes the disease in the cooling towers for the mall and the Walmart, but it said that doesn't mean they were the source.

Legionnaires' disease is a pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria, which can grow and spread in building water systems that aerosolize water such as cooling towers, hot tubs that aren't regularly drained, decorative fountains and large plumbing systems.

Individuals can get the disease by breathing water droplets containing the bacteria, although most healthy people don't develop the disease.

Those at higher risk for developing pneumonia are the elderly, smokers, people with chronic lung conditions and those with compromised immune systems.

Medical health officer Dr. Aamir Bharmal said the health authority tested samples at the mall and Walmart after some of the patients reported visiting those locations.

He said both the mall and Walmart have been responsive to the authority's recommendations of closing their cooling towers, conducting deep cleans and remediation, as well as testing and sampling to make sure the bacteria is gone before reopening the towers.

Fraser Health continues to test samples and interview patients to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, as it tries to pinpoint the source, he said.

"We're not suggesting at all that people stay away from this mall or stay away from Walmart. They've been very receptive to what we've told them and they've started cleaning measures right away. If these were the potential sources, they're also minimizing the risk by starting this cleaning," he said.

Individuals who visited the Guildford area but don't show any pneumonia-like symptoms do not need to seek medical advice.

Those with high-risk factors who are also feeling sick are encouraged to visit a doctor and say they could have been exposed to legionella.

Guildford Town Centre said it has complied with Fraser Health's recommendations, has been advised there is no public health concern and said the shopping centre remains open for business.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said legionella infections are rare in the province, with only 34 cases reported between 1999 and 2008.

If 100 people are exposed to legionella, Public Health Canada said fewer than five will get legionnaires' disease.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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