Health officials have announced that the legionnaires’ disease outbreak that has struck Edinburgh has now affected 61 people. The most likely sources of the outbreak have been identified, with 16 industrial cooling towers located across four sites in the south-west and west of Edinburgh being targeted.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, had originally stated that there had been 40 confirmed or suspected cases of legionnaire’s disease in the city, but later upped that figure and included two patients being treated outside of the NHS Lothian area.
“I want to stress that although these patients are being treated elsewhere, they are considered part of the south-west Edinburgh outbreak. They have had association with the affected area.’’ She said.
She also confirmed that although some likely areas have been targeted as likely sources, the exact location may never be known. In the meantime ‘shock treatment’ has been conducted at the various sites in order to kill off the bacteria.
Residents Reassured Risk of Contracting Legionnaires’ Disease is Slight
Local residents have been sent information packs outlining everything they need to know about Legionnaires’ disease and the current outbreak in their locality. The case in Edinburgh is the biggest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease since 180 people were affected and seven killed in Barrow-in-Furness in 2002.
There is the possibility that the owner of the sites could face legal action as health and safety officials test samples taken from each site thought to have been the source of the legionnaires’ disease.
Professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University, a leading bacteriologist, said:
“This is not an act of God. This is a failure of maintenance by someone and simply should not happen.”
Legionnaires’ Disease – The Symptoms
Legionnaires’ disease has symptoms that are similar to flu with a high temperature, muscle pains and headaches being suffered at first. It can then lead to pneumonia, sickness and diarrhoea.
Legionnaires’ disease is caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water and is particularly dangerous for older people or those with underlying health conditions. It cannot be spread from person to person. It is named after an outbreak at a convention of the American Legion veteran’s organisation in Philadelphia, US in1976, where 221 people caught the disease and 34 of those died.
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