Worrying to learn of the outbreak of legionnaires’ disease north of the border, which has already claimed the death of a gentleman in his 50s. As of yesterday (5/6/12), NHS officials in Edinburgh confirmed the number of cases to number 30, with more expected to be diagnosed this week as the disease spreads.
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia or lung infection caused by a bacterium known as legionella pneumophila. Infection occurs when heavily contaminated water is inhaled. It can be fatal.
A further problem with legionnaires’ disease is that the bacteria can have a long incubation period, so it often not known until a person becomes sick that they have been infected. Young people usually make a full recovery, but – as with many diseases – smokers, the elderly and the unfit are at increased risk.
In milder form, the symptoms are akin to the flu virus and as a result are not recorded as cases of legionnaires’. However, the disease is a real threat in the unfit or infirm and claimed 43 lives in England and Wales in 2009.
There were 345 reported cases in 2009, with the bacteria found in air conditioning units, water supply systems, spa pools, humidifiers and ornamental water features. Vulnerable buildings include – but are not limited to – hotels, hospitals, museums, gymnasiums and office buildings. These venues are subject to codes of practice to minimise the risk of an outbreak.
More information can be found on these pages at the HSE website and NHS website.
If you have contracted a disease through the course of your employment, you may be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation. Please contact us today to discuss your claim free of charge with a specialist Employer’s Liability Solicitor.