Edinburgh Legionnaires' cases continue to rise - now at 80


Cases of a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease have risen again, the Scottish Government's Health Secretary has confirmed.

There are now 80 confirmed and suspected cases of Legionnaires' disease from the outbreak in the south-west of Edinburgh.

This is an increase of eight in the total number of confirmed cases and a decrease of two suspected cases.

The Health and Safety Executive and Edinburgh City Council are continuing their investigations into the possible source of the outbreak.

An improvement notice has been served on the North British Distillery Company for alleged failures to adequately control the risk of legionella in a cooling tower.

The company said it took three towers out of use on Thursday and is working with the authorities to resolve the issue.

Of those cases of the disease being treated in hospital, 15 are in intensive care and 27 are in general wards.

A total of 16 cases are being treated in the community, 16 have been discharged from hospital.

So far one man has died, named locally as 56-year-old Robert Air, from Seafield in Edinburgh.

Five cases are being treated outside the NHS Lothian area. One patient is being treated in the north of England, two in NHS Tayside, one in NHS Lanarkshire and one patient from NHS Highland is now being treated in Glasgow. At this stage all these cases are considered to be linked to the south-west Edinburgh outbreak.

The ages of the confirmed cases ranges between 33 and 76, with more males than females affected.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "Although there has been a rise in the number of confirmed cases, it is reassuring to see that the number of suspected cases is decreasing and that 16 people have now been discharged from hospital.

"NHS Lothian continue to be very busy and contact has been made with other health boards in case capacity at other hospitals is required. However at this stage NHS Lothian continue to cope extremely well with the demands being placed on services.

"Investigations are continuing into the source of this outbreak. However it is important to note that the risk to the general public remains low but anyone with concerns should contact their GP or NHS 24's dedicated hotline on 0800 0858 531.

"I want to continue to stress that this bacteria is not passed on person to person or by drinking water."

Dr Duncan McCormick, chair of the Incident Management Team at NHS Lothian, said: "The number of patients with confirmed or suspected Legionnaires' disease has continued to increase in line with our expectations.

"Our hospitals, GPs and out of hours services are doing an excellent job in responding to this outbreak and the increased pressure it has put on our services."

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.

A statement from the Health and Safety Executive said it served the improvement notice on North British Distillery because of a "failure to deliver and implement a sustained and effective biocide control programme in one cooling tower".

The organisation said the improvement notice does not mean the distillery is where the outbreak originated.

It must now satisfy the HSE that it has appropriate controls in place by June 29. The notice can be appealed by the company within 21 days.