Woman in fifties dies in Barrow outbreak

A woman in her fifties became the second person to die from the outbreak of legionnaires' disease in Cumbria.

Doctors announced the latest fatality yesterday shortly after confirming the number of infected people in Barrow-in-Furness had finally begun to fall. The 56-year-old, who has not been named, died in Furness General Hospital, where many of the 150 people infected with the bacterium have been sent for treatment.

Fifteen people remained in intensive care at hospitals across the region, at least one of whom was giving doctors "cause for concern". Another 94 were still receiving treatment.

The Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust said the woman had been admitted in the past few days. Ian Cumming, its chief executive, said: "This is a very nasty disease and people tend to deteriorate very quickly. Obviously, we are hoping we will not see any more deaths but it's too soon to be complacent."

A week ago, police said Richard Macaulay, 88, had died from the flu-like disease, a form of pneumonia carried on tiny water droplets.

The latest outbreak, the worst in a decade, has been linked to a 30-year-old air conditioning system at Forum 28, a council-run arts centre in Barrow, where traces of the Legionella bug were found. A council officer responsible for maintaining the system has been suspended during an investigation by police and the Health and Safety Executive.

Whether the death of Mr Macaulay is directly linked to Forum 28 is unclear. He was living in a nursing home and had not been near the civic centre. Health officials, who have tested about 1 per cent of Barrow's population, said on Thursday that the number of new cases had reached a plateau.

Yesterday, a newly married woman was waiting for test results in Kent after contracting flu-like symptoms while on honeymoon in the Lake District. Kirsty-Ann Smith, 30, of Rochester, visited Barrow days before the outbreak.