Deadly bacteria found

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 January, 2012, 12:00am


Deadly bacteria that cause legionnaires' disease - a severe form of pneumonia - were found in the chief executive's office at the new HK$5.5 billion Tamar government headquarters, in Central, the Centre for Health Protection said.

Centre controller Thomas Tsang Ho-fai said preliminary test results showed legionella bacteria in nine out of 31water samples collected from the government complex.

Widespread disinfection was carried out yesterday to areas including the Legislative Council, washrooms of numerous ministers, a canteen and a cafe.

It will take more than a week to determine the levels of bacteria elsewhere. But the government downplayed fears and said more than 3,000 government staff can work as normal.

Last month education chief Michael Suen Ming-yeung fell ill from legionnaire's disease and spent 12 days in hospital before being discharged last week. The level of legionella bacteria found in his office was up to 14 times higher than the acceptable international standard.

Legionella bacteria thrives in warm water and can be found in water tanks and cooling towers. It may spread through exposure to contaminated water drops, but cannot spread between people.

Tsang said finding legionella bacteria in water supplies did not mean there would be an outbreak; catching the disease depended on the bacteria's concentration and a person's immune system.

Samson Wong Sai-yin, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the government should install filters on taps and disinfect water supplies with chlorine to contain the bacteria.