TESTS are being conducted at two new industrial sites in Edinburgh as the search for the source of a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease continued.
A dozen people remain critically ill in hospital as the number of confirmed cases of the bug rose to 24, with another 37 suspected. A 19-year-old is now among the confirmed cases.
Health experts yesterday warned of more deaths over the coming days as the city’s hospitals and GP surgeries continue to see an increasing number of cases.
Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, more than 35,000 leaflets were distributed to homes and businesses across parts of the Scottish capital yesterday, warning people about the symptoms of the bug and what to do if they think they have them.
It also emerged that colleagues of construction worker Robert Air, who died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease while working in the Gorgie area of the city, have been issued with protective masks to shield them from any contamination.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon yesterday revealed that two more commercial sites were being investigated as the possible source of the outbreak.
She refused to confirm whether they were in the same area as the 16 cooling towers located over four sites which have been under the spotlight since news of the outbreak emerged at end of last week.
Ms Sturgeon said all six sites were being treated and monitored as a precautionary measure. Testing for the bug took up to two weeks due to the difficulty in cultivating the bacteria, she said. All of the suspected sites had been washed down with high doses of chlorine to kill off any harmful bacteria.
Ms Sturgeon also warned that despite on-going efforts, health officials might never discover the exact cause of the outbreak.
She said: “Retreatment is under way in towers where it was thought may be necessary and I would hope that over the next few days investigations will start to deliver more specific answers on where the source of the outbreak might be.”
She also revealed that two people outwith Edinburgh were believed to have been infected. One is being treated in the NHS Highland area and the other in the north of England. She said both had connections with the area of south-west Edinburgh suspected to house the source of the potentially fatal bug.
Ms Sturgeon said new patients being admitted to hospital with symptoms were “less ill” than those seen at the start of the outbreak, as a result of quicker detection
NHS 24 has seen a 20 per cent rise in calls as a direct result of the outbreak, which was announced by NHS Lothian on Sunday night, the Scottish Government revealed. Of the 24 confirmed cases, 12 patients are in intensive care while five have been discharged. Many of the 37 suspected cases are being treated in hospitals across the Lothians.
Dr Duncan McCormick, public health medicine consultant at NHS Lothian, warned that more deaths were likely given the nature of the illness.
He said: “We’re doing everything we can in terms of early diagnosis, appropriate treatment and intensive care, but we can’t rule out further deaths.”
TOLL SO FAR
61 total cases
24 confirmed cases
37 suspected cases
12 patients in intensive care
5 confirmed patients discharged from hospital
1 patient being treated in Highlands