Two further case of Legionnaire's Disease have been confirmed in the Stoke-on-Trent outbreak bringing the total number of cases to nine. All those affected are between their late 40s and mid 70s and are being treated at University Hospital of North Staffordshire. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is also investigating two cases identified in early summer as being possibly linked to the current cluster.
Professor Harsh Duggal, Director of the Health Protection Unit in Stafford, said: “Early microbiology typing results back from the HPA laboratories show that samples taken from some of the patients look very similar so far and this is consistent with the cases having caught their infection from the same environmental source. We are taking detailed histories of the movements of the patients to see if there are similar patterns which would indicate a local source of infection.
”It is important to stress that the outbreak is not hospital related and the hospital is a safe environment for visitors.”
Public and environmental health experts from the HPA the Health and Safety Executive, the NHS in Stoke and Stoke-on-Trent City Council are working together to identify and investigate possible sources.
The action to date includes:
Identifying, sampling and advising on the disinfection of potential sources of the disease, such as cooling towers, in
areas that the cases may have visited in common.
Alerting health care staff, including GPs in the areas the patients live, to look out for patients who may be developing symptoms of the disease
Importantly making people aware of the symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease
Dr Zafar Iqbal, Director of Public Health, NHS in Stoke, said: “Legionnaires’ disease is a rare but potentially life threatening illness. It is caused by a bacteria commonly associated with water systems and cannot be passed from person to person. You cannot catch Legionnaire’s disease from drinking water. The early symptoms include a “flu-like” illness with muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, dry cough and fever which can then lead to pneumonia. As with any pneumonia, the patient can become very unwell. Diarrhoea and confusion may occur, as well as chest and breathing symptoms. However Legionnaire’s Disease can be effectively treated with a course of antibiotics and this is best done as early as possible.”
Legionnaire’s disease is caused by a germ called Legionella pneumophila. Although this bacteria is widely distributed in the environment it can lead to human illness if sources such as wet air conditioning systems are not well maintained.
It cannot be spread from one person to another.
People are advised if they are feeling unwell with any of the possible signs to go and see their doctor, ring NHS Direct
on 08454647 or visit www.nhs.uk
It is stressed that there is no need for anyone who is well or only mildly unwell to see their doctor or to have any tests.
Media contact Ann Fleming on 07834 311393
Note to Editors:
1. This is a joint statement from the statutory agencies who are working together to investigate the source of the infection – the Health Protection Agency, NHS Stoke on Trent, Stoke on Trent City Council and the Health and Safety Executive.
2. Legionnaire’s disease is a disease that may cause pneumonia, caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila. The majority of cases are reported as single (isolated) cases but outbreaks can occur, with around 300 cases reported each year in England, just under half of these are associated with foreign travel. All ages can be affected but it mainly affects people over 50 years of age and generally men more than women.
3. The early symptoms of legionellosis include a “flu-like” illness with muscle aches, tiredness headaches, dry cough and fever. Sometimes diarrhoea occurs and confusion may develop. Deaths occur in 10-15% of the general population and may be higher in some groups of patients.
4. The incubation period ranges from 2-10 days, sometimes up to 14 days. In rare cases some people may develop symptoms as late as three weeks after exposure. Antibiotics against the infection are effective in treating the disease.
5. Legionellas are widely distributed in the environment. They have been found in ponds, hot and cold water systems and water in air conditioning cooling systems.
6. The disease is spread through the air from a water source. Person to person spread does not occur. Breathing in aerosols from a contaminated water system is the most likely route of transmission.
7. In 2011 there were 239 cases of Legionnaire’s disease in England and Wales, of these 23 were in the West Midlands.
8. The cases of Legionnaire’s Disease are not hospital acquired.