By a Newsnet reporter
Seven people are reported to be receiving treatment for Legionnaires’ disease in an outbreak in Stoke-on-Trent.
The six men and one woman are currently being treated at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
According to health officials there is as yet no indication of the source of the outbreak, but it is thought two cases from earlier in the summer might be linked.
Prof Harsh Duggal, director of the Health Protection Unit in Stafford, said: While we do not currently have a direct link between the cases the evidence points to the fact that there is a common source.”
He added: “We are taking detailed histories of the movements of the patients to see if there are similar patterns which would indicate a local source of infection.
“Legionnaires’ disease is a rare but potentially life-threatening illness. It is caused by a bacteria commonly associated with water systems and cannot be passed from person to person.”
The disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water. It is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person. Legionella bacteria are commonly found in sources of water, such as rivers and lakes, however they can end up in artificial water supply systems, including air conditioning systems, water services and cooling towers.
The early symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include a ‘flu-like’ illness with muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, dry cough and fever. Sometimes diarrhoea occurs and confusion may develop. The incubation period can range from 2 to 19 days with a median of 6 to 7 days after exposure.
The news follows a recent outbreak in Edinburgh that saw almost 100 cases which led to two deaths and the hospitalisation of many more infected patients.
The Edinburgh outbreak was thought to be related to cooling towers in the region and prompt action by the Scottish Health Authorities brought the spread of the disease under swift control. However confirmation of the source has yet to be established and, despite ongoing tests, some experts warned that it may never be definitively confirmed.
Last week the Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon declared that the Edinburgh outbreak was officially over, although Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that some patients remained extremely ill.