Previous outbreaks of Pontiac fever have invariably been associated with water droplet spread of Legionella spp. In January 2007 three workers from a horticultural nursery were admitted to hospital with non-pneumonic legionellosis. Investigations showed that a working party of ten people had been exposed to aerosolized potting mix; nine of these workers met the case definition for Pontiac fever. The presence of genetically indistinguishable Legionella longbeachae serogroup 2 was demonstrated in clinical specimens from two hospitalized workers and in the potting mix to which they had been exposed. A further seven cases were diagnosed by serological tests. This is the first documented outbreak of Pontiac fever from L. longbeachae serogroup 2 confirmed from inhalation of potting mix. Pontiac fever is likely to be under-diagnosed. We advocate the introduction of an industry standard that ensures the use of face masks when handling potting mix and attaching masks and warning labels to potting mix bags sold to the public.
(Accepted August 19 2009)
(Online publication September 28 2009)
c1 Author for correspondence: Dr G. J. Cramp, Public Health Physician and Medical Officer of Health, Te Puna Waiora, Tairawhiti District Health, Private Bag 7001, Gisborne, New Zealand 4040. (Email: geoffreyc@TDH.org.nz)