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Expert backs legionnaires' denial

Published: 9:11AM Saturday September 03, 2005 Source: RNZ

The Australian consultant hired to inspect the cooling towers of a Christchurch company identified as a possible source of legionnaires' disease says it is highly unlikely the outbreak came from the company.

The Canterbury District Health Board says Ravensdown Fertiliser's air-conditioning cooling tower tested positive for the strain legionella bacteria linked to the outbreak of legionnaires' disease in Christchurch.

But the Ravensdown says the levels are not high enough to produce an outbreak.
The company says it may have been singled out because it provided all the testing records of its tower and other companies may have masked their results.

Consultant Clive Broadbent agrees, saying the outbreak was in winter when it is harder for the disease to travel, so it may have come from a source other than a cooling tower.

The outbreak of the disease in Canterbury has seen 20 cases identified this year, with three deaths. The district health board believes the most probable source is a cooling tower.

Wigram MP Jim Anderton says there needs to be a change in legislation to make reporting results from tests on air conditioning systems mandatory.  There

Anderton says the medical authorities did not release the company's name sooner as they needed co-operation from businesses.  He says the publication of the name could have resulted in assistance being withheld.