These days, most of us have heard of Legionnaire’s Disease. Outbreaks of this potentially deadly bacterial infection are usually front page news – as happened recently when, tragically, an outbreak in Edinburgh, Scotland saw three people die and over 100 hospitalised with symptoms. Yet the real tragedy is, ultimately, that this very nasty airborne infection is completely preventable.
The disease first came to the world’s attention in in 1976 when, during a convention of the American Legion Association at a Philadelphia hotel, a severe outbreak of pneumonia occurred. Over the next 6 months, 34 of the convention attendees were killed by the illness with over 220 made very ill.
It wasn’t until early the following year that medical investigators discovered that this was no ordinary pneumonic infection. A new strain of bacteria was identified as the cause: the legionella. This strain thrives in infected water sources and poorly ventilated areas where it is transmitted through droplets in the air. In the case of the hotel where the first outbreak occurred, the source was a poorly maintained water cooler tank linked to the air conditioning system.
Symptoms of Legionnaire’s infection are high temperature, fever and pneumonia. Some people only suffer mild forms of these. But for the most vulnerable groups – those over 50, particularly males, smokers or anyone with underlying health problems/respiratory problems – the results can be fatal.
With poor building hygiene and facilities maintenance a contributory factor to any outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, it can be said that the disease is entirely preventable. So, if you, a family member or someone you know has been affected by Legionnaire’s it’s worth seeking professional help to look into whether you may have a justifiable compensation claim or not.