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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Carlisle hospital treating patient for killer bug

A PATIENT in Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary is being treated for suspected Legionnaires’ disease.

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Outbreak: More than 70 people are feared to have been infected with Legionnaires disease in Edinburgh

A hospital spokeswoman confirmed the man’s case was connected to a fatal outbreak in Edinburgh and that he was admitted earlier this week.

He was on holiday in Cumbria when he was taken ill. Details of his condition were not being released without his consent, she said.

A message of reassurance has, however, been issued that the case does not pose a threat to the wider public since the disease is not contagious.

A statement from the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “An individual visiting the area on holiday from Edinburgh is being treated for suspected legionella infection.

“Legionella is a water-borne bacteria and cannot be spread from person to person.”

The man’s illness is being linked to a major Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Edinburgh, which is now being connected to 74 confirmed and suspected cases.

Dr Nigel Calvert, NHS Cumbria’s associate director of public health, stressed there was no risk to anyone else.

“Victims have to be exposed to the contaminated aerosols of water,” he explained.

“The bacteria can grow in stagnant water and cases are generally linked to old-fashioned air conditioning systems – where air is pumped through a curtain of water – or cooling towers.” He said it took six to 10 days to incubate in people and the bacteria could spread ‘far and wide’ from the source by the time it had been identified.

“When we had the case at Forum 28 in Barrow in 2002, in which seven people died, we identified victims as far away as Canada,” he said.

Dr Calvert said most factories and offices were now more aware of the risks of Legionnaires’ and had newer, fridge-system air-conditioning.

He said he was made aware of the case in the Cumberland Infirmary by the Health Protection Agency in Scotland.

So far, one man has died following the Edinburgh outbreak. Reports have named him as 56-year-old Robert Air, from the Seafield area of the Scottish capital.

There are 28 people confirmed as having Legionnaires’ disease. Another 46 are suspected of having it.

Of those, 14 are in intensive care, a further 30 are in general hospital wards, 15 are being treated in the community and 10 have already been discharged from hospital.

Dr Duncan McCormick, chairman of the Incident Management Team at NHS Lothian, said: “The number of patients with confirmed or suspected Legionnaires’ disease has increased since Thursday.

“This is exactly in line with what we expected and what we have predicted so far, based on the first presentation of patients and the incubation period of Legionnaires’ disease which is between two and 14 days, but usually has an average of five to six days.

“We expect that the numbers of patients affected will peak over the weekend and then begin to fall as we move into the beginning of next week.”

The search for the source of the disease outbreak has centred on cooling towers at four sites in the south-west of the city, which have been “shock-treated” with chemicals.

VBrenan@cngroup.co.uk

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