Cases of Legionnaires' disease expected to rise

A man has died and a further 16 people are critically ill following an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Scotland.

The Scottish Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, said the outbreak is of 'considerable concern' after a man in his 50s died from the disease in Edinburgh and tens of thousands could be at risk as the water vapour carrying the fatal disease spreads from the source.

She commented: "Over the next few days we will be ensuring that the public has all the right information. The message to the public is firstly that the risk to the general population is low. As with many conditions, there is a higher risk with people who have underlying health conditions but anybody worried about symptoms who think they may have cause for concern is advised to contact NHS 24 or their GP as quickly as possible."

Legionnaires' disease is a potentially fatal lung infection caused by the bacteria legionella. The disease is contracted when small droplets of contaminated water in the air are breathed in. Symptoms can include headaches, muscle pain, high fever, chills, a persistent cough, shortness of breath, chest pains and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea.

A spokesperson for independent insurance broker, Bluefin, said: "The potential harm to health from the legionella bacteria means that this is a source of potential risk exposure which should be recognised by businesses. Suitable control and protection mechanisms need to be put in place to minimise the exposure to the potentially harmful bacteria and to protect all involved should contamination occur."