This paper provides one of the first assessments of the burden of both the public health investigation and the economic costs associated with an apparent outbreak of Legionnaires' disease (LD) in South East London. In addition to epidemiological, microbiological and environmental investigations, we collected data on the staff time and resources committed by the 11 main organizations responsible for managing the outbreak. Of the overall estimated costs of £455 856, only 14% (£64 264) was spent on investigation and control of the outbreak compared with 86% (£391 592) spent on the hospital treatment of the patients. The time and money spent on public health services in this investigation appear to represent good value for money considering the potential costs of a major outbreak, including the high case-fatality rate in LD generally and the high health-care costs. Further research is needed to determine optimum strategies for the cost-effective use of health system resources in investigations of LD. Whether the threshold for investigation of cases should be based on observed incidence rates or the cost-effectiveness of investigations, or both, should be debated further.