Outbreak of Legionnaires Disease

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Legionnaires Disease is an uncommon form of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacterium. The sources of the infection live in rivers and streams and artificial waters sources like water towers, spa pools, hot and cold water systems.

A recent article in the Guardian News papers confirms that an outbreak has occurred in Edinburgh where seven men have been confirmed as having legionnaires disease with another 13 suspected cases being investigated.

Symptoms can begin with a mild headache or muscle pain, and people may think they have a cold. However, once the bacteria infects the lungs, symptoms increase to persistent cough, shortness of breath, chest pains, vomiting, diarrhoea and changes in mental health. The outbreak is thought to have come from cooling towers in the south west of Edinburgh.

People become infected when they inhale legionella bacteria which has been released in the air.  Legionellae grow rapidly in water systems which are not properly designed, installed or maintained.

The Health and Safety Executive advices that it is reasonably foreseeable that a risk of the legionella bacteria will grow if water temperature is between 20-45 degrees centigrade. Therefore, the recent heat wave we have had may have increased the risk.All employers, landlords and persons dealing with artificial water sources should identify risks of legionella bacteria, make an assessment of the risk, and take steps to prevent or control and management of the risk.

Hopefully this recent outbreak will be a warning to all employers, landlords and persons dealing with artificial water sources, and will make them take a good look at control procedures to ensure they are doing everything reasonable to reduce the risk of contacting this disease.

David Chilcott 

Associate of the Institute of Legal Executives - Personal Injury team 

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