Three cases of Legionnaires' disease are being investigated by the Department of Health & Human Services to determine a possible link to cooling towers in the northern suburb of Gladstone Park.
Victoria's Deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said the three men all report residing in or visiting the same areas of Gladstone Park in the days before they became unwell.
All had onset dates between April 20 and 26. The three, aged in their 60s and 70s are in hospital receiving treatment. Two are currently in ICU.
Dr Sutton said all three visited similar areas during their incubation periods, including the Airport West and Gladstone Park Shopping Centres.
Dr Sutton said the cases were linked when two were notified to the Department yesterday - following the first case who was notified last Saturday.
"My message to people who have visited the Gladstone Park area between mid-April and earlier this week and who may be suffering from pneumonia or flu-like symptoms is to visit their GP who will assess the need for testing for Legionnaires' disease," Dr Sutton said.
"The Department is continuing to investigate these cases to seek to identify the possible source of their illness."
Departmental teams are in the area today taking samples from nine cooling tower systems and ensuring they are all disinfected to make them safe.
Legionnaires' disease causes flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, chills, muscle aches and pains, followed by respiratory problems and pneumonia developing over three or four days.
The onset can be up to 10 days after the initial contact with the bacteria, so new cases may occur up to mid-May. High risk groups in the community are people aged over 50, heavy smokers, heavy drinkers, people with diabetes or chronic lung disease and those with lowered immunity.
Legionnaires' disease infection is acquired through breathing in very fine droplets of warm water which contain the bacteria, such as spray drifts which are vented off from a contaminated cooling tower. Thorough management, decontamination and cleaning of affected towers is highly successful in eliminating risk.
The Legionella bacteria occurs naturally in the environment, mainly in water and soil. It is normally in very low concentrations but can increase markedly, particularly in man-made aquatic environments with warm recirculating water, such as air conditioning cooling towers.
So far this year the department has been notified of 34 people who have contracted Legionnaires' disease usually associated with cooling towers, with 31 notifications for the same period last year. There were 67 cases of Legionnaires disease notified in 2017, a slight increase from previous years when there were generally between 40 and 50 cases.
Reviewed 04 May 2018