Legionnaires’ disease: outbreak in ‘later stages’, experts believe

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed suspected cases had risen to 74. Picture: Jayne Wright
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed suspected cases had risen to 74. Picture: Jayne Wright
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A LEGIONNAIRES’ disease outbreak that has hit the capital is in its “later stages”, with the number of new cases slowing down as expected, according to the Scottish Government.

• 82 confirmed or suspected cases of the disease Sunday, up just two from 80 on Saturday

• 15 people being treated in intensive care

• The ages of the confirmed cases range from 33 to 76, with more males than females affected

• One man, named as Robert Air, has died as a result of outbreak

There were 82 confirmed or suspected cases of the disease yesterday, up just two from 80 on Saturday.

This suggested a slowdown in the outbreak, which has centred on south-west Edinburgh, following a rise from 74 on Friday, and from 61 the day before.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “These latest figures are reassuring and in line with expectations, and although it is too early to be definite, they do suggest we are now in the later stages of this outbreak.”

There were 37 confirmed cases yesterday, an increase of one from Saturday when there were 36. And there were 45 suspected cases, up from 44 on Saturday.

As of noon yesterday, figures from the Scottish Government Resilience Room showed that there were still 15 people being treated in intensive care – the same as Saturday – with another 26 on general wards.

Another 16 cases were being treated in the community, 19 had been discharged from hospital, and a further five were being treated outwith the NHS Lothian area.

One person, construction worker Robert Air, 56, died from the disease last week.

Dr Duncan McCormick, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lothian, said: “We are pleased with the slowdown in the number of cases presenting and we hope this will continue over the coming days.”

He emphasised that the risk to the general public was low, but said anyone with concerns should contact their GP or the NHS 24 hotline on 0800 0858 531. Ms Sturgeon added: “All those involved are responding extremely well: NHS Lothian services are coping with the demands on them and the City of Edinburgh Council and the Health and Safety Executive continue to make significant progress in their investigation to identify the source of this outbreak.”

The ages of the confirmed cases range from 33 to 76, with more males than females affected.

Of the patients being treated outwith NHS Lothian, one 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.

The Scottish Government said at this stage all these cases are considered to be linked to the south-west Edinburgh outbreak.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Edinburgh city council are continuing their investigations into the possible source of the outbreak.

On Friday, the HSE served an improvement notice on North British Distillery Company for alleged failures in controlling the risk of legionella in one of the cooling towers at its Edinburgh site in Wheatfield Road, in the Gorgie area of the south west of the city.

It is being investigated as one of the potential sources of the outbreak. A cooling tower at the distillery was one of 23 to be “shock treated” with chemicals to kill off any legionella and tested for traces of the bug. North British Distillery has stopped production at the site.

NHS 24 has received 630 calls to its helpline about Legionnaires’ disease.