European Parliament president knocked down by Legionnaires’ disease

What is legionellosis, the disease that took European Parliament’s President David Sassoli out of the parliamentary game for more than two months? And how has the EU improved legislation to tackle the spread of the pneumonia-causing bacteria?

“In September, during the plenary session of the European Parliament, I came down with a bad case of pneumonia caused by Legionella,” the 65-year-old Italian said in a video message on his social media accounts.

On 15 September, Sassoli was taken to the Hôpital Civil in Strasbourg, treated, then hospitalised “in good condition”, according to a note released by his spokesperson, Roberto Cuillo.

The infection was diagnosed a few days before the yearly Commission president’s address to MEPs, the State of the Union, which was chaired instead by one of Parliament’s vice-presidents, Maltese Christian-democrat Roberta Metsola.

After returning to Italy to recover from the disease, he had a relapse, “and this episode prompted the doctors to recommend a series of tests and investigations, and that’s what I’m doing,” he added.

Doctors are now working to ensure that he can return to presidential duties as soon as possible, Sassoli concluded in his message.

The fact he was diagnosed with pneumonia led reporters to initially speculate on the Parliament’s president contracting COVID-19 which his spokespersons promptly denied.

“There is also a risk that legionellosis might be misinterpreted or misdiagnosed as being COVID, due to the fact that symptoms can be quite similar to early Legionnaire’s diseases,” said Susanne Lee, a microbiologist with many years of experience in British public health agencies, in a recent interview with EURACTIV.

She added that getting a diagnosis quickly for legionellosis and getting the right antibiotics early could significantly impact a successful outcome from the disease.

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