Sassoli plays down chances he caught Legionnaire’s in Parliament

EU Parliament chief David Sassoli played down the probability that he could have caught Legionnaire’s disease from water droplets or ventilation in the Parliament, despite a recent history of outbreaks in the institution.

President Sassoli revealed on Tuesday that the reason he was hospitalized with pneumonia two months ago was that he had contracted Legionnaire’s disease, a sometimes fatal illness carried in airborne water droplets that thrives in large plumbing systems.

A spokesperson for Sassoli said he “probably” caught the illness in a hotel around the time he fell ill in mid-September, during the Parliament’s plenary week in Strasbourg. The Italian has been unable to work since then. “Checks were carried out in the Parliament and at Sassoli’s home both in Brussels and Rome. All checks came back negative,” Sassoli’s spokesperson said.

The Parliament’s buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg have a long history of outbreaks of the disease, dating back to 2002 and most recently in 2016 and 2017, when MEPs were warned to stay alert for the flu-like symptoms of early-stage Legionnaire’s, before it develops into pneumonia.

Since then the Parliament has restricted the supply of warm water in its showers and restrooms to prevent further outbreaks.

“In the reporting period (before 15 September) [Sassoli] stayed in various hotels in various countries and in Italy. Everything has been notified to the national authorities, in accordance with legal obligations,” Sassoli’s spokesperson said. According to his official agenda, Sassoli was only in Slovenia, Strasbourg and Brussels in the two weeks before he fell ill.

A spokesperson for the French public health agency said it had no knowledge of a multiple-case outbreak at the Parliament in Strasbourg and that it is typically very hard to determine the origin of a single case.

Strasbourg has had more than 20 cases of the illness in the past two years. Some proved fatal; several resulted from a single boiler.

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