Important health and safety update

The University of Sydney’s Vice-President (Operations) Stephen Phillips has written to staff and students to inform them of actions taken after a low level of legionella bacteria was identified in a cooling tower on campus.

Our message to staff and students

Testing has identified a low level of legionella bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, in a cooling tower on our Camperdown/Darlington Campus. The University is working closely with Sydney Local Health District and following all their advice.

We have been directed by Sydney Local Health District to disinfect, drain and clean the contaminated tower as well as several cooling towers on our Camperdown/Darlington Campus. Contractors are on site now conducting this work and have completed the disinfection of stage of the contaminated tower, as well as nine additional towers. As a precautionary measure, we have also arranged for all other cooling towers on our Camperdown/Darlington Campus to be disinfected to mitigate any risk. We expect this work to be completed over the weekend.

Legionnaires’ disease is not transmitted from person to person and Sydney Local Health District has advised that occupants of University buildings are not at risk and all buildings can remain open.

We will keep you updated as the situation evolves and the most up-to-date information will be published on our website.

Due to the volume of activity and traffic on our campuses for the start of semester, we are urging everyone to be mindful of the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease and to seek medical advice if any symptoms develop.

NSW Health says symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe chest infections, such as pneumonia

Legionnaires’ disease most often affects middle-aged and older people, particularly those who smoke or who have chronic lung disease. People who are immunocompromised are also at increased risk.

We assure you that we are taking every possible action to ensure the safety of our community. The University regularly tests our buildings and cooling systems in line with NSW Health’s guidelines and standards.

We understand that this news may cause concern and we encourage you to seek help if you need it. Our employee assistance program offers 24/7 confidential counselling for all staff members and their families.

Students can connect with free and confidential 24/7 support through our student life, wellbeing and support webpage.



Stephen Phillips

Vice-President (Operations)

/University Release. View in full here.