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Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Tamworth, Staffordshire

Public and environmental health experts from Public Health England (PHE) West Midlands, the Health and Safety Executive, the NHS in Staffordshire and Tamworth Borough Council are jointly investigating two laboratory confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Tamworth.

Both patients are recovering. PHE is also investigating four separate recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease identified in the last six months, all of whom are now fully recovered, in case they are linked to a wider community cluster.

Dr David Kirrage, lead consultant with PHE West Midlands Health Protection Team, said: “While we do not currently have a direct link between these cases, the evidence we have points to the possibility that there is a common source. We are taking detailed histories of the movements of the individuals to see if there are similar patterns which would help to identify a common local source of infection.

“Legionnaires’ disease is a rare but potentially life threatening illness. It is caused by a bacterium commonly associated with water systems and cannot be passed from person to person.

“As a precaution we are working with the Health and Safety Executive and Tamworth Borough Council to identify and control any possible sources of the disease.”

The action to date includes:

  • Identifying, sampling and advising on the disinfection of potential sources of the bacteria, such as cooling towers in areas around Tamworth that the cases may each have visited
  • Alerting health care staff, including GPs in the areas in which the patients live, to look out for others who may have similar symptoms
  • making people aware of the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacterium called Legionella pneumophila. Although these bacteria are widely distributed in the environment they can lead to human illness if sources such as wet air conditioning systems are not well maintained.

The disease cannot be spread from one person to another.

The early symptoms include a ‘flu-like’ illness with muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, dry cough and fever which can then lead to pneumonia. As with any pneumonia, the patient can become very unwell. Diarrhoea and/or confusion may occur, as well as chest and breathing symptoms although it can be effectively treated with a course of antibiotics.

People are advised if they are feeling unwell with any similar unexplained symptoms to go and see their doctor, ring NHS111 or visit the NHS website: www.nhs.uk.

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