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Legionnaire's: A killer from the air
21:50 GMT, 9 June 2012
Investigations continue into the outbreak of legionnaire’s disease in Edinburgh. More cases are suspected and tests are being carried out to determine the source.
People might think it’s a disease of the past – but it clearly remains as much a threat as it was in 1985, when 28 people died in an outbreak at Stafford Hospital.
Under the microscope: Legionnaire's disease is a lung infection caused by a bacteria that thrives in warm water
Hadn’t legionnaire’s disease gone away
No. Legionnaire’s disease is a lung infection caused by a bacteria that thrives in warm water.
Usually, water storage tanks and pipes become contaminated, and this can spread to air-conditioning systems, hot-water supplies, Jacuzzis and even decorative fountains and shower heads.
How do you catch legionnaire’s disease
The contaminated water vapour must be breathed for infection to occur. This is why air-conditioning can be a source as the contaminated water droplets are in the air.
It can’t be caught from someone who has the disease or from drinking contaminated water.
Do I need to worry about this outbreak
No, it’s very contained. But if you live nearby and have a serious pre-existing medical condition, keep an eye out for any symptoms.
What are the symptoms of the disease
It causes pneumonia, with cough, fever, breathlessness and chest pain. Sufferers feel tired and unwell and may suffer from vomiting and loss of appetite.
People normally become ill within ten days of infection with the legionnaire’s bacteria. A urine or sputum test can confirm the disease.
Are some people more vulnerable
The infection is more serious for anyone with lung disease such as asthma, or other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease.
Approximately one in ten people with legionnaire’s will die.
What is the treatment for legionnaire’s
Legionnaire’s disease requires hospital admission and patients are given intravenous antibiotics to clear the bacteria.