Legionnaires' disease outbreak toll 'could hit 80'
7 June 2012One patient has died and 12 remain in intensive care in the Edinburgh outbreak blamed on a contaminated cloud from an industrial cooling tower.
FORTY people are now being treated after a Legionnaires' disease outbreak - and the toll could double within days.
One patient has died and 12 remain in intensive care in the Edinburgh outbreak blamed on a contaminated cloud from an industrial cooling tower.
Dad-of-two Bert Air, 56, who had been working at a building site in the heart of the danger zone in the west of the city, died on Tuesday after collapsing there.
So far there have been a total of 21 confirmed and 19 suspected cases but health chiefs fear twice as many could emerge by the weekend.
Most are men aged mid-30s to late 80s and doctors say those with other health problems are at most risk.
Sixteen cooling towers have been treated to kill the bacteria and health officials are liaising with the Met Office on wind and temperature.
Mr Air, who had a partner and two grown-up children from a previous marriage, had struggled into work after taking time off with a chest infection last week.
A friend said yesterday: "They say there were underlying health problems but guys he worked with said they couldn't think of him ever taking a day off sick before."
Dad-of-three Rick Gibb, 54, who was originally sent home by doctors with anti-diarrhoea tablets, was still fighting for his life last night.
NHS Lothian's Dr Duncan McCormick warned adult males with an alcohol habit, diabetes, heart or lung disease are "at greater risk".
There is no threat to drinking water and Legionnaires' is not contagious. Flu-like symptoms usually take five or six days to appear and Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon hoped treatment of the towers - including one at a distillery near a busy traffic route to and from Glasgow - had stemmed the cause.
But she admitted: "It is likely we will see more cases emerge."
What is Legionnaires' disease?
Legionnaires' disease is an acute form of pneumonia.
It is caused by breathing in water droplets containing the legionella pneumophila bacteria.
In small numbers, the bacteria, which is common in lakes and rivers, is harmless.
But in man-made air conditioning systems, cooling towers or swimming pools, it can multiply, sometimes with deadly results.
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