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11 November 2014 Number of Portuguese infected with Legionnaires' disease rises to 278

posted 13 Nov 2014, 00:35 by Ian Clarenbone

The number of people in Portugal infected with the Legionnaires' disease has reached 278, the country's health authorities announced on Tuesday.

Director-General of Health Francisco George said that cases relating to the outbreak in Vila Franca de Xira in the outskirts of capital Lisbon had risen by 45 from Monday.

Five people have died due to the disease since the outbreak on Friday.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by the legionella bacteria which can be transmitted by breathing mist from water but cannot be passed from person to person.

Earlier on Tuesday, Environment Minister Jorge Moreira de Silva said an investigation would be carried out in a fertilizer plant for an alleged crime relating to its cooling towers, which could have sparked the disease.

The region's main cooling plants have been closed to control the outbreak.

The World Health Organization has referred to the Legionnaires' flare as a "national public emergency" and pointed out that it is the biggest outbreak of legionnaires' disease ever seen in Portugal.

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva has expressed his condolences to victims and called for trust in the health authorities to deal with the outbreak.