Second person dies in Edinburgh Legionnaires' disease outbreak


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The Independent Online

A second person has died after catching Legionnaires' disease in the outbreak in Edinburgh, NHS Lothian said.

The man, who had significant pre-existing underlying health conditions, died yesterday evening in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

The health board said that he was one of the confirmed cases in the outbreak, which began in the Scottish capital at the beginning of June.

The first man to die was named as Robert Air, 56, from the Seafield area of the capital, whose death was reported on June 5.

There are now 40 confirmed cases and 48 suspected cases.

The Health and Safety Executive and Edinburgh City Council continue to investigate the possible source of the outbreak in the south-west of the capital.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said last night: "My sincere condolences go to the family and friends of the patient who passed away in Edinburgh tonight in a case linked to the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the city. My thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.

"Despite this sad and tragic development, it remains the case that we believe the outbreak to have peaked. However, we continue to monitor the situation carefully and advise anyone with any concerns to contact the special NHS 24 helpline on 08000 85 85 31."

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

Earlier yesterday health chiefs said it appeared the worst of the outbreak was over.

Dr Duncan McCormick, chairman of the incident management team and consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lothian, said: "Whilst we realised that further deaths were a possibility this additional death is extremely sad and I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of the patient."

On Monday a pharmaceuticals firm in the area where most of the cases originate was served with two improvement notices by the HSE.

The watchdog ordered thorough cleaning of one of Macfarlan Smith's cooling towers and ordered provision of access for the same tower so it can be inspected and maintained.

Last week the watchdog served an improvement notice on North British Distillery Company in the same area. The firm was censured for failing to devise and implement a sustained, effective biocide control programme for one cooling tower on its site.

The improvement notices do not mean any of the towers are the source of the outbreak. The source may never be conclusively identified, based on experience from previous outbreaks.

On June 14 a man who caught Legionnaires' disease said he wants answers about how the deadly outbreak started.

Terry Holeran, 55, said he has instructed specialist illness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help him find out how the outbreak occurred and what can be done to prevent it from recurring.

Mr Holeran, from Saughton Mains, Edinburgh, became ill on June 5 with aches and pains, tiredness and breathlessness. He was treated at Western General Hospital but doctors sent him home with antibiotics because they feared his weakened immune system would allow other diseases in.

He said: "It has been one of the worst weeks of my life.

"I'm just so angry about the whole thing and want to know what went wrong to cause the outbreak."

Legionnaires' disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water.

Symptoms include mild headaches, muscle pain, fever, a persistent cough and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea.

About half of those with Legionnaires' disease will also experience changes to their mental state, such as confusion.

The condition is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person.