Legionnaires’ disease outbreak: Second victim dies in Edinburgh

The MacFarlan Smith plant and the North British Distillery site behind. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The MacFarlan Smith plant and the North British Distillery site behind. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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A SECOND man has died in the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Edinburgh, it emerged last night.

The latest victim was among patients being treated at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Health officials said the man, who has not been named, had “significant” pre-existing, underlying health conditions.

He died at the hospital yesterday evening. It is understood that he was among the first victims to be admitted.

He is reported to have been in his 40s and from Gorgie, the area at the heart of the outbreak. His death came after health secretary Nicola Sturgeon emphasised yesterday that she believed the “worst of this outbreak is over”.

Last night Ms Sturgeon expressed sympathy to his family and stressed that cases of the disease are still believed to have stabilised. She said: “My sincere condolences go to the family and friends of the patient who passed away in Edinburgh tonight. 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.”

NHS Lothian confirmed that the latest victim had been among the 41 cases being treated.

Dr Duncan McCormick, chair of the incident management team and consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lothian, also voiced his sympathies.

He 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.”

Only one new suspected case of the disease reported earlier yesterday, taking the total number of confirmed and suspected cases to 89.

The first patient to die was Robert Air, 56, a father of two from Edinburgh, who worked on a building site in Gorgie.

Six companies in the city are being investigated over the disease, the source of which remains unknown.

Ms Sturgeon said that the Health and Safety Executive and Edinburgh council were continuing to make progress in their investigations.

Confirmation of the second death coincided with news that another victim of the Legionnaires’ outbreak is taking legal action against officials.

Terry Holeran is seeking answers from NHS Lothian, City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government as to why the outbreak happened, his legal team said. Mr Holeran, of Saughton Mains, Edinburgh, is also demanding assurances that lessons have been learned and that no future outbreaks are able to happen.

The 55-year-old became ill on 5 June when he started suffering from aches and pains, tiredness and breathlessness, and went to Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital for treatment.

Doctors sent him home five days later with antibiotics because they feared his weakened immune system would leave him prone to contracting a virus at the hospital.

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.

“I’ve been stuck in a hospital bed and then housebound, and I want to know why, as well as how, it could have been avoided and what is going to be done to stop this from ever happening again.

“Too many people have been affected by this, and it is time that we all got some answers.”

Mr Holeran yesterday instructed specialist illness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to find out how the outbreak occurred and what can be done to prevent it from recurring.