AN OUTBREAK of legionella linked to compost has left two people in intensive care in the Lothians.
NHS Lothian said this evening it was investigating four cases in total of “legionella longbeachae”.
Two patients are currently being treated in intensive care in hospital, while two other patients have been discharged from hospital.
It is not known if the patients are related or where they are from. Health chiefs are examining a link with gardening compost.
Dr Richard Othieno, Consultant in Public Health and Chair of the Incident Management Team, NHS Lothian said: “This type of Legionella is quite rare in that unlike other strains it has never been identified in man-made water systems, like cooling towers.
“We are working with experts to trace the source of the infection and samples of the compost have been sent for testing.
“We know that each of the four cases are keen gardeners and had purchased different products containing compost prior to acquiring the infection.
“Gardening is a healthy hobby but there are risks and it is important that people take some simple precautions when working in their garden or with gardening products.
“I would like to add further reassurance that the risk to the wider public is low.”
Symptoms of Legionella longbeachae include headaches, diarrhoea or a dry cough followed by pneumonia. Most people recover after treatment with antibiotics however those with underlying medical problems are more vulnerable.
Last year, four people died as a result of a legionella outbreak spread by a cloud of vapour from a cooling tower in Gorgie. As many as 92 people are believed to have contracted the disease.
Below is some helpful information for anyone handling garden mixes (bagged or unbagged) such as potting mix, mulches, composts and garden soils:
• read and follow any manufacturers’ instructions on the bag
• open any compost or potting mix bags carefully, if possible using a blade
• wear gloves when handling compost
• keep the door open in greenhouses or sheds when potting-up plants or filling hanging baskets
• wear a mask if the air is dusty, particularly indoors
• wash hands immediately after use of compost
• if you are going to smoke while gardening, wash your hands before