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Source of Quebec City legionnaires’ disease identified

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume, left, and Regional Health Director Francois Desbiens discuss the outbreak of legionnaire’s disease in Quebec City on Aug. 24, 2012.

CLEMENT ALLARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Public-health authorities say they have identified the source of Quebec City's outbreak of legionnaires' disease: an office building in the provincial capital.

They say samples taken from a cooling tower in a building on St-Joseph Street in Quebec City's lower-town area match the genetic fingerprint of the strain of Legionella bacteria found in patients who've been treated.

Public-health officials told a news conference Wednesday that the tower is safe again and there's no reason for people to modify work or leisure activities.

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They say their conclusion is based on preliminary information released by the laboratory conducting the tests.

From the start, the source of the outbreak was suspected to have been an office cooling tower. Authorities scrambled to ensure all the towers were cleaned in the affected areas, while at the same time seeking to pinpoint the actual origin.

Since the outbreak began in July, 180 cases have been reported. Thirteen people have died.

The deadly bacteria grows in the stagnant water of cooling systems and spreads in little droplets through air conditioning.

While authorities haven't ruled out other buildings, they say the tower on St-Joseph Street played an important role in the outbreak in that city.

Authorities say the illness has been brought under control because they have disinfected the cooling systems in more than 100 buildings in the area.

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