ALMOST 1500 people have been asked to take part in two studies aimed at unravelling the mysteries of the Capital’s legionella outbreak.
With the crisis declared officially over, authorities are turning their attention to learning more about the legionnaires’ outbreak, which claimed three lives after the first cases emerged in late May, and left dozens of others seriously ill.
One study will see more than 900 people who sought medical help during the outbreak but were not diagnosed with legionnaires’ disease asked to submit a blood sample and answer a questionnaire.
The second study will look into why some people who live, work or visited Gorgie and Dalry – the epicentre of the outbreak – became unwell while others were unaffected.
Those who volunteer for the second study will be asked to complete a 30-minute telephone interview, when they will be asked about their health, daily life and general activities between May 20 and June 6.
Dr Duncan McCormick, consultant in public health for NHS Lothian, said: “These two pieces of research will help us get a better understanding of the scale of the recent outbreak and how to manage outbreaks in the future.
“I would like to reassure those who participate that the information they provided will be kept confidential. We are hoping that people who receive the letter will come forward and help us with this significant piece of research.”
The findings of the research, which has been funded by the Scottish Government, will be shared throughout Europe and used if a similar outbreak occurs. Although there were 101 suspected or confirmed cases of legionnaires’ disease reported by NHS Lothian during the outbreak, it is predicted that many hundreds more may have become ill after they were infected with legionella.
To be clinically diagnosed, victims must develop pneumonia, but those infected with the bug can develop milder illnesses, such as Pontiac Fever.
Elaine Walker, of Murrayfield, was told that she may have had Pontiac Fever by her doctor and claimed the public had been misled as to the numbers of people who had become ill due to the outbreak.
The blood samples from those who reported flu-like symptoms or expressed concerns to NHS 24 or their GP will be tested for antibodies against the legionella bacteria in an attempt to gain a fuller picture of how many were affected.
It is hoped that some signs or symptoms of legionella could act as an early warning system to alert GPs and other medical professionals as to what to look out for so that suspected cases of the disease are treated as soon as possible.
It is expected that the finding of the studies will be presented in a report, which it is expected will be published in the summer of 2013.