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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.