Bug scare prompts vow to review inspections

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2012, 12:00am


Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has promised to include testing for the legionella bacteria in new buildings in a review of inspection guidelines.

Speaking during a visit to Shanghai, the chief executive also said a special task force, to be chaired by Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, would be set up to uncover the causes of the recent bacterial contamination in the new government headquarters at Tamar, which opened in August.

So far, water samples taken from offices of seven of the ministers as well as Tsang's office have been found to contain the legionella bacteria that cause legionnaires' disease.

'A big lesson this time is that usually we only test for legionella bacteria in some special institutions like hospitals,' Tsang said.

He added it was now known the problem could occur in newly completed blocks, adding: 'I hope we can come up with new guidelines after a thorough review.'

He dismissed fears that the new headquarters were not healthy and his own health might be affected. 'I have been going here and there throughout the day and you can see that I am fine,' he said.

His remarks came as the Centre for Health Protection yesterday reported the detection of Legionella pneumophila in two more water samples taken last week.

The samples were taken before cleaning and disinfection of the buildings. They came from water taps in the kitchen of the second- floor conference hall in the west wing and in a third-floor pantry of the Legislative Council complex.

Meanwhile, one man and seven women, aged 24 to 42, working at the Tamar complex sought medical aid at a legionnaires' disease service area at Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai yesterday. The Hospital Authority said they showed no symptoms.

Last night, water supplies were restored to the Legislative Council complex after a 36-hour suspension.

Chow said the disinfection of the Tamar buildings was completed yesterday morning. He stressed that the headquarters were safe to work in.

The legionella bacteria scare at the new offices emerged on December 18 when Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and later diagnosed with legionnaires' disease. He was discharged on Thursday last week and is expected to return to work on Monday.

A big lesson this time is usually we only test for legionella ... in special institutions

Chief executive Donald tsang