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New Brunswick health officials warned on Thursday of an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease in the Moncton area after confirming seven people have the severe form of pneumonia.

Dr. Cristin Muecke, deputy chief medical officer of health, says her team is investigating to determine the potential sources of the legionella bacteria.

“It’s important that New Brunswickers and visitors be aware,” said the public health physician.

“In particular it’s important if you have pneumonia-like symptoms that you seek care … Often people do need to be hospitalized and there can be serious consequences if it’s not treated.”

The bacteria can be found in both natural bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes and streams, and in water systems such as some air conditioners, cooling towers, whirlpools, spas and decorative fountains.

Muecke says the bacteria are not spread person to person or by drinking water. They are spread when present in a water source and fine mists of water from that source are inhaled.

She says older people, those with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases, smokers, alcoholics and people working with man-made water systems are at greater risk of developing the disease.

“Most healthy people when exposed to this bacteria will not get sick,” said Muecke.

The doctor also said that typically the bacteria is not found in home or car air conditioning systems.

She said “most” of the seven people who have been diagnosed with the disease have been hospitalized and treated for the illness, adding she didn’t have information about their condition.

All of the cases occurred over the past month.

In New Brunswick, 28 cases were reported to public health officials between 2015 and 2018.

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