14 September 2017 Woman dies following Legionnaires’ outbreak at Feathers Hotel Ludlow

posted 15 Sep 2017, 08:08 by Ian Clarenbone

A woman has died and another has fallen ill, following an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, Shropshire. The hotel has closed temporarily after taking advice from Public Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands and Shropshire Council. Laboratory tests from the hotel showed links between the Legionella bacteria found in the water samples and the two guests who stayed there.


The first guest, a woman in her 70s, was diagnosed in April this year and has since recovered.

The second guest, a woman in her 60s who stayed at the hotel in July, is understood to have died mid-August. Both guests were from Merseyside.

The hotel is currently writing to guests who have stayed in the last two weeks to contact them if they have experienced any symptoms of the disease.

Dr David Kirrage, consultant with PHE West Midlands Health Protection Team, stated that as soon as the Legionella bacteria was identified, the hotel’s affected rooms were closed and the water system disinfected. He said “Results from PHE laboratories on Monday 11 September 2017 confirmed that the strain of Legionella located in the hotel is indistinguishable from the samples taken from the two cases. Extensive work is now needed to overhaul and treat the plumbing in such an old building, so that guests can fully enjoy the facilities.”

The hotel will remain closed as work is carried out.

15 September 2017 Manchester Ship Canal Boats Floating Health Hazards States New Report

posted 15 Sep 2017, 08:06 by Ian Clarenbone

77% of ship samples found Legionella; 93% high levels of bacteria: 45% of drinking water samples unsatisfactory.

A new report from Manchester Port Health Authority reveals that 77% of samples taken from inspections of non-passenger vessels on the Manchester Ship Canal found Legionella bacteria, the cause of Legionnaires‘ disease. Meanwhile, 93% of ships sampled were found to have high levels of bacteria, and 45% of drinking water samples tested for bacteria, including e-coli, were also deemed unsatisfactory. The report is to be presented at a full meeting of Salford City Council next week.

Ships visiting the Manchester Ship Canal and going through Salford are floating germ hazards, according to a new report by Manchester Port Health Authority (MPHA). During the period May to July this year 284 non-passenger ships arrived on the Canal and 131 were inspected and tested for sanitation by MPHA officers. Two of the ships were deemed to have "extremely poor standards on board, requiring significant improvement", and 47 ships "required further action to be taken in order to meet the required standard".

165 Legionella samples were taken from 57 ships, and 77% of the samples were "unsatisfactory due to the presence of Legionella bacteria and required a full system review", the report states. Legionella bacteria, it adds, "are the cause of Legionellosis including Legionnaires' disease which can be fatal". After galley hygiene swabs were taken, 43 out of 46 ships sampled, or 93%, were "unsatisfactory due to the presence of high levels of bacteria", and 45% of drinking water samples (59 samples from 29 ships) were deemed "unsatisfactory" following tests for Coliforms, Enterococci and e-coli, along with an aerobic colony count.

A UK wide study on the High Prevalence of Legionella In Non-Passenger Merchant Vessels (NPMV) and published by Cambridge University Press, with the Salford data included, found that "Vessels were frequently positive and a large proportion of results were greater than the UK upper action limit. "SBT [Sequence-based typing] indicated that some NPMVs were contaminated with L. pneumophila sg1 STs previously associated with human disease" it added "This presents a risk of infection to merchant seafarers and raises significant concerns about the management of Legionella on board NPMVs."

The report is due to be 'noted' by councillors at next week's full meeting of Salford City Council.

31 July 2017 Why that nasty cold you picked up on your last holiday could be MUCH worse than you think

posted 1 Aug 2017, 08:09 by Ian Clarenbone

Frail and suffering from various health problems, 79-year-old William Hammersley's DIY days were behind him. But when his son Des, 53, arranged a trip to a home-improvements superstore, the grandfather-of-two from Chesterton, Staffordshire, was delighted. 'Dad loved DIY,' recalls Des, a plumber. 'So I took him to the nearby JTF Warehouse.' It was a fatal decision. William fell victim to Legionnaires' disease. A poorly maintained hot tub on display infected 21 people, killing three, including William. He died in North Staffordshire Hospital in August 2012. Among the survivors were William's wife Clarissa, 82, and Des's partner Claire, who was left with a damaged lung. This month, the company responsible for the outbreak was fined £1 million. During the court case, Clarissa suffered a stroke. As Des told Good Health: 'This has been a complete tragedy for the whole family.'

It's a heartbreak that affects hundreds of families in the UK every year. Official statistics put the number affected by Legionnaires' disease in England and Wales at over 550 a year. But some experts believe the true figure is as high as 9,000.

There are also concerns that the number affected on holiday abroad is rising, with tourists being warned to be particularly wary of hotels and villas in hot climates that have lain empty for months over winter.

And yet the disease is entirely preventable — so why are people still dying from it?

Legionnaires' is a nasty form of pneumonia, caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila, that kills about one in ten of its victims by causing rapid lung failure and depriving organs of oxygen. In its early stages, it is easily mistaken for flu. Even if pneumonia is diagnosed, if Legionella isn't recognised as the culprit the wrong antibiotics may be given. Legionella occurs naturally in ponds, lakes, rivers and reservoirs. There, it's harmless. Swallowing infected water is very unlikely to cause an infection, since concentrations are too low and the bug has to be breathed into the lungs. The problem is when Legionella finds its way into man-made water systems, where conditions can be ideal for it to breed. It feeds on nutrients including rust and scale and thrives in temperatures between 20c and 45c.

In poorly maintained equipment such as air-conditioning cooling towers, spa pools and showers, infected water can be 'aerosolised', converted into a fine spray that's easily breathed in. Without prompt treatment, Legionella breeds rapidly in the lungs — but with early symptoms of headache, muscle pain and a temperature of 38c or above, the disease can easily pass for flu. But as the bacteria start to multiply (incubation takes between two and ten days), the tiny air sacs in the lungs become inflamed and fill with fluid. At first, this causes a persistent dry cough, but as the condition worsens, those affected start to produce phlegm and experience increasing shortness of breath.

‘Anyone with these symptoms should seek help, especially if they've been abroad’, says Richard Russell, a consultant respiratory specialist at Lymington New Forest Hospital and adviser for the British Lung Foundation.

'Giving your doctor a history of foreign travel will make the penny drop quicker,' he says. Some people are more vulnerable than others. Most cases of Legionnaires' disease are among the over-50s, with the majority aged 70 or more. People who smoke, drink heavily, have an existing lung condition or are generally in poor health should 'consider avoiding water systems that could be contaminated, such as spas', says NHS England.

Figures show cases in England and Wales have been steadily increasing for the past four years. But, shockingly, one expert says the official figures might be way off the mark. 'It's possible that the number is closer to 9,000 a year and that the number of deaths could realistically be more like 900,' says Debbie Green, operations director at Nemco Utilities, a buildings risk management consultancy specialising in Legionella control. This is based partly on European research suggesting that up to three per cent of the 300,000 infections diagnosed as pneumonia in the UK are in fact Legionnaires' disease. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) insists regulations regarding Legionnaires’ in the UK are strict. These involve regular treatment of water storage containers with chemicals and, crucially, keeping water at the correct temperatures. Under UK regulations, cold water must be stored below 20c.

The bug is extremely rare in the home because domestic water systems are fed directly from clean mains supplies and daily water usage is sufficient to 'turn over' the entire system. So why are there still so many cases in the UK? Debbie Green fears some organisations may be cutting corners. 'It's possible that insufficient funding, particularly in the public sector, has a part to play,' she told Good Health.

Statistics from the HSE show that poorly maintained hot and cold-water systems cause a quarter of the cases, followed by cooling towers (16 per cent) and spa pools (14 per cent). In the case of the JTF Warehouse outbreak, there had been a 'misguided assumption' that JTF could manage the risk without spending on specialist consultants, said the crown court judge.

Another concern is that the number of Britons infected abroad has increased, rising more than 65 per cent from 2013, to 146 cases. Spain, where 26 Britons contracted the disease in 2015, heads a top ten of at-risk destinations for Legionnaires issued by Public Health England, followed by Italy (21 cases) and Greece (17).

A growing threat is in the increasingly popular destination of Dubai. With over 10.8 million visits from UK tourists in 2015, the chance of catching the disease in Spain is 2.8 in a million. The risk in Dubai is far greater, 41 in a million — almost on a par with Thailand, says PHE.

Tourists should be wary of hotels and villas in hot climates that have lain empty for months over winter, warns Nick Harris, former head of international holiday and travel law at solicitors Simpson Millar. 'The Greek islands are a classic example. At the beginning of the holiday season, there will be a spike in legionella claims, and a lot of that is because the hotels close down over winter.'

There is little really that tourists can do apart from being aware of the symptoms, says Simon Dooner of risk-management company Legionella Control International. 'I know of people who will run showers in their holiday villas before they will use them. While it can't do any harm, in the end you have to trust that the people operating the systems are taking the correct precautions.' He says in hotter countries 'the authorities allow cold water to be stored at 25c'. So 'unless you are treating the water chemically, you've got conditions conducive to the growth of the bacteria'.

Kevin Dick, a 54-year-old sales manager from Inverness, caught Legionnaires on holiday in Thailand with his wife Linda in May. He started to feel ill shortly before landing at Heathrow. 'It felt like flu,' he says. 'I was sweating; hot and cold. I assumed I'd picked up a bug on the plane.' After trying for three days to fight what he thought was the flu with Lemsip, his temperature hit 41c. Rushed to Raigmore Hospital, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and put on antibiotics: the diagnosis of Legionnaires wasn't made until a week later. In all, he would be off work for nine weeks. 'It was only later when I read up about it that I realised what a lucky escape I'd had,' says Mr Dick.

So how can you tell if it might be Legionnaires or 'just' flu? Professor Mark Britton of the British Lung Foundation explains that early symptoms such as muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, a dry cough and sudden high fever are 'very similar to flu, but usually more severe and more acute in onset'. 

'If you experience a sudden high temperature, shivering, and a loss of alertness, together with some of the above symptoms and may have been exposed to water droplets such as at a spa, urgently seek medical advice.' 

26 July 2017 Harlow G4S fail to overturn £1.8million fine after worker contracts Legionnaires' disease

posted 31 Jul 2017, 00:44 by Ian Clarenbone

Harlow company that failed to protect workers from contracting a serious lung infection has lost a court appeal. G4S Cash Solutions was inspected by Harlow Council in 2013 after a worker contracted Legionnaires' disease, a flu-like disease spread by bacteria that grows in certain water temperatures. According to a report, environmental health officers found a 'serious lack of compliance in maintaining water systems at the site,' with 'erratic monitoring and testing systems,' among a long list of failings.

It also stated the company failed to fully take steps required to improve.

The security firm was fined £1.8million in September 2016 and, after their initial appeal was thrown out, G4S then renewed their application for leave to appeal the sentence. At the Court of Appeal in London on July 12 the company claimed the fine was excessive. G4S argued their culpability rating of 'very high' should be reduced to 'high' which could have reduced the punishment.

In giving judgement, Judge Alison Russell QC stated that it was difficult to see how any argument could reduce the characterisation of culpability as 'very high' within the sentencing guidelines. She said G4S was aware of legal obligations and over a period of four-and-half years it failed to act, which could only be viewed as a blatant and flagrant disregard of compliance with statutory obligations.


Harlow councillor Danny Purton, portfolio holder for environment, said: "I am pleased the court has upheld the level of fine originally handed down to G4S in full. Although G4S did make some improvements to its practises it was aware of its legal obligations to protect its staff and visitors from exposure to Legionella bacteria and, over a period of four-and-a-half years, it had failed to act. Once again I want to congratulate Harlow Council's environmental health and legal teams for their hard work and professionalism in securing a successful outcome."

8 July 2017 Deadly Legionnaire’s disease found in showers at barracks of Queen's Buckingham Palace guards where hundreds of soldiers live

posted 10 Jul 2017, 00:25 by Ian Clarenbone

The Legionella bug - which thrives in water droplets - was discovered at Victoria Barracks in Windsor where there are 60 showers used by 300 soldiers of the Coldstream Guards.

The historic regiment, one of seven which guard the Queen at Buckingham Palace, were ordered not to use the showers after the bug was detected in a boiler. The Legionella bug was found during a routine inspection at the Victoria Barracks two weeks ago. It is believed about 60 showers were out of action, affecting up to 300 soldiers.

A source said: “A lot of us were scared we might have been exposed – posters went up warning us not to use the facilities after they found it. They locked down some of the showers so loads of us had to go elsewhere to use the ablutions. They’ve reassured us everything is being sorted now, but it was pretty hairy to hear that we might have been inhaling this stuff.”

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella bacteria infecting the lungs. It is usually caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water. If not treated with antibiotics quickly enough, the disease can lead to death.

Last night the Ministry of Defence confirmed the outbreak, and said it was under control. A spokesman added: “Only one block of showers is closed and nearby alternatives are available while we fix the problem.”

The Coldstream Guards are one of seven regiments in the Household Division – the Queen’s personal troops. They are an infantry unit famous for being the oldest regiment in the British Army in continuous service, having been formed in 1650. The unit has previously been deployed to Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are also a ceremonial battalion involved in any state or royal ceremonial tasks, such as the changing of the guard which hordes of tourists flock to see outside Buckingham Palace.

Cromer widow warns of silent killer which could be lurking in your garden hose after husband dies of Legionnaires’ disease

posted 16 Jun 2017, 00:14 by Ian Clarenbone

A widow has warned the public to be wary of their hose pipes after her 63-year-old husband died of Legionnaires’ disease believed to have been contracted through working in the garden. Stephen Clements, a Cromer grandfather, inhaled toxic bacteria which had grown in stagnant water within the pipe. He died a week later at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on February 24.

Now, the former builder’s wife Alison is cautioning others about the dangers of the disease, so that other families do not face the same tragedy as her own. She explained: “Stephen had cleaned the patio earlier in the year and left the hose out across the lawn filled with water. In the winter sun, it was the perfect temperature for the bacteria to breed. He was cleaning the terrace with a stiff broom and the garden hose on spray. The sweeping of the broom caused the perfect aerosol, which my husband then breathed into his lungs. My husband had a heart condition but was active and well. He began having symptoms, which appeared to be an upset stomach to start with but rapidly developed into pneumonia.”

The mother-of-two added: “I didn’t believe them when they said he might not make it. Steve and I had been together 43 years. The last thing we spoke about was what we would do when he came home. He spent his last two days in intensive care at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. They called me and said that Steve kept taking his oxygen mask off because he didn’t like it, and that they were going to sedate him so they could insert a respirator. His heart rate was going up and his kidneys began to fail. And then they told us that the antibiotics weren’t working on the pneumonia. They took him off his heart medication and his heart beat maybe another half a dozen times, and then he was gone. We had no idea that a garden hose could be so lethal.”

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacterium, called Legionella. People become infected when they breathe in the bacteria which have been dispersed into the air in very fine droplets of water known as aerosols. If the bacteria get inhaled into the lungs they can cause infection but it is very unlikely for one person to infect another.

Legionella can be found in many different environments. They can live in all types of water, including both natural sources and artificial water sources such as water towers associated with cooling systems and spa pools.

28 May 2017 War veteran almost dies after catching Legionnaires’ disease in new gym shower at Lifestyles Walton-on-the Naze

posted 30 May 2017, 00:54 by Ian Clarenbone

Graham Leach contracted the deadly Legionnaire's Disease from the water supply while showering at his local gym. The 68 year-old nearly died of pneumonia losing consciousness on Remembrance Sunday. Retired engineer Mr Leach spent two weeks in hospital as the bacteria caused blood poisoning and kidney failure.

Mr Leach said: "I go to the gym to get fit and end up a few months later more unfit and more unwell than when I started. I almost died and that's quite a shock.  I just cannot believe how it would happen in a new building."

The grandfather-of-four fell ill in November after he breathed in the bug found in water particles at Lifestyles gym in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex. He fell unconscious and was rushed to emergency care – only waking up two weeks later. Medics said Mr Leach, who served during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, is "lucky" to be alive. Doctors told his brother-in-law that he had been "less than two hours from death". Mr Leach visited the leisure centre – which had only been open for seven months – up to three times a week. The fitness enthusiast developed "terrible headaches and profuse vomiting" and later had to be put on antibiotics via a drip.

After his ordeal, Mr Leach is pursuing legal action against the centre's management and vows to never use gym showers again. The council-run leisure centre was closed until its water tested clean from Legionella. 

"Everyone is potentially at risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease," states advice on the NHS website. But those with existing medical conditions or heavy alcohol or tobacco users are more likely to come down with the bug, the website adds.

Legionella bacteria normally lives in harmless amounts in ponds and lakes. But the bug breeds rapidly when it gets into buildings which keep the water at temperatures of 20-45C. It feeds on rust, algae and limescale in the water and can breed to gut-wrenching numbers in spas, sprinkler systems and washing facilities. Large, old buildings such as hotels, offices and hospitals are more vulnerable to harbouring the bug because of their complex water supplies. 

27 May 2017 Legionnaires’ disease cases up to 60 in Europe: Linked to Dubai travel

posted 30 May 2017, 00:47 by Ian Clarenbone

In recent months, there has been an increase in the number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease among European travellers returning from Dubai. As the source has not yet been identified, there could still be a risk for exposure to Legionella for persons visiting or living in Dubai.

Between 1 October 2016 and 23 May 2017, there have been 60 cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported to European Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) with a history of travel to Dubai. The majority of cases stayed in commercial accommodation sites.

The number of cases reported during February and April 2017 are still higher than that seen in previous years. The most recent case became ill on 11 May 2017. These recent cases suggest there is still an ongoing exposure risk.

The risk of Legionnaires’ disease to travellers to Dubai is considered to be low. However, the risk may be increased for the following groups:

·         Those aged over 50

·         Those with underlying breathing problems

·         Those who have weakened immune systems

·         Smokers


If you are travelling to Dubai, be aware of the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease. If symptoms develop while in Dubai you should seek medical care. If symptoms develop within two weeks of returning home you should seek medical care and inform your healthcare provider of your travel history.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila and other Legionella species. The illness usually starts with flu-like symptoms including fever, tiredness, headache, and muscle pains. This is followed by a dry cough and breathing difficulties which may progress to a severe pneumonia. The disease is spread through the air from a water source. People become infected when they breathe in aerosols (tiny droplets of water) which have been contaminated with Legionella bacteria.

26 May 2017 Inverness man survives brush with death after contracting Legionnaires' Disease during Thailand break

posted 30 May 2017, 00:44 by Ian Clarenbone   [ updated 30 May 2017, 00:55 ]

A holidaymaker who survived a brush with death after contracting Legionnaires’ Disease is now recovering at home.

Inverness businessman Kevin Dick’s condition was described as “touch and go” at one point as he battled the potentially fatal infection, which only began to take hold as he returned home from his holiday in Thailand.

The 54-year-old, a sales manager with power generation company Aggreko, started feeling ill on a return flight to Heathrow Airport almost a fortnight ago, after spending two weeks on the island of Ko Samui.

Now recovering at home in the Drakies area of the city, he was still too ill to speak this week.

However, his wife Linda, who owns Inverness salon The Hair Directory, said it was a frightening experience to go through.

“We were about an hour away from landing in London when he started to say he wasn’t feeling well and then after we landed he didn’t want anything to eat or drink, I put it down to the long flight and him being tired, but by the time we got home he was worse and went straight to bed.”

Even then, she said, they both thought it was just flu and it wasn’t until last Tuesday morning May 16 that they eventually decided he had to go to hospital.

“He got up at about 6.30am and was sweating very badly. He’d also had an upset stomach that just wasn’t getting better,” she said. “I took him to Raigmore Hospital and he was admitted as an emergency case.”

Initially diagnosed with pneumonia, further tests revealed he had contracted Legionnaires’ Disease, a severe lung infection usually caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water and which can lead to life-threatening problems, impacting on the proper working of organs and even leading to septic shock.

“At one point his temperature rose to more than 40 degrees and wasn’t coming down at all,” said Linda. “He wasn’t unconscious at any point but he wasn’t fully with things a lot of the time either.

“Kevin had a serious heart attack about 10 years ago but in a lot of ways this was worse – I think because it was a condition we didn’t really know anything about and even at the hospital some of the staff were saying they hadn’t dealt with it before.”

Linda and Kevin are frequent visitors to Thailand, with this latest trip to the country being their sixth, and Linda insists the incident won’t put them off.

In 2016 New York had more than twice the number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease than England & Wales combined

posted 20 Mar 2017, 02:05 by Ian Clarenbone

New York sees 718 cases of Legionnaires’ disease

Public health activists are urging New York to implement tougher water safety regulations to help prevent future outbreaks. The “Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease” has released a report showing New York had 718 cases of the disease in 2016, while Ohio had 493, California recorded 413 cases, Pennsylvania had 355 and Florida had 332. Incredibly New York’s 718 cases of the disease accounted for 14% of the USA’s total count that year.

To put these figures in to context Public Health England reported 345 confirmed cases of the disease in the whole of England and Wales for 2016.

New York study identifies cooling towers

The outbreak in New York in 2015 led officials to bring in emergency regulations that focused on the management of cooling towers and improving the conditions to ensure these towers were not the source of any further outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. However, the Alliance believes the drinking water infrastructure should also be looked at in detail. They stated ‘water-cooled air conditioning systems were quickly declared to be the source of the bacteria’, further stating that investigation procedures were not followed.

10% mortality rate

Legionnaires’ disease has around a 10% mortality rate, and many others who survive only do so after extensive hospital treatment.

Contaminated droplets of water that are inhaled by unsuspecting victims can lead to a severe form of pneumonia that is indicative of this condition. Some suspect biofilms that can safely harbour the dangerous bacteria exist inside old water pipes in the system, but unless and until an investigation is 
completed, it remains uncertain where the cases and outbreaks are coming from.

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