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Cooling tower as the cause of a legionellosis outbreak in Stuttgart

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Flu-like symptoms in the middle of late summer 2023? It's a good thing that doctors in Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, quickly recognised the problem and had affected patients tested for legionellosis.

A central area of the city showed an unusually high number of cases of Legionnaires' disease. The search for the cause dragged on for two months until a contaminated evaporative cooling system was identified.

Aerosols containing legionella from this system were inhaled by people living, working or shopping in the affected districts. The inhaled pathogens can lead to serious illness in at-risk patients (elderly people, smokers, people with weakened immune systems).

In order to minimise risks from cooling systems, a reporting and inspection obligation for such systems was issued in Germany in 2017 as part of the 42nd BImSchV (Ordinance on Evaporative Cooling Systems, Cooling Towers and Wet Separators). If operators fail to fulfil this obligation, they face legal consequences.

In collaboration with the University of Stuttgart, the City of Stuttgart now wants to use aerial photographs to check whether all potentially legionella-emitting systems in the city have been registered.


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