Britons die after contracting Legionnaires' disease in Spain

Map showing Calpe

Three British men have died and three more people are in hospital after contracting Legionnaires' disease while on holiday in Spain.

The pensioners died after staying at the Diamante Beach Hotel in Calpe, Costa Blanca, Saga Holidays said.

One died in hospital on Thursday. Another was found dead in a hotel room.

Five others who recently stayed at the same hotel were treated in UK hospitals and all but one had been discharged, the company added.

Another person who had been hospitalised in Spain has since been discharged.

All those affected are in their 70s or 80s.

A Saga spokesman said it was told a customer was being treated for pneumonia caused by legionella on 14 January.

'Flu-like symptoms'

"When that happened we immediately sent out a scientific expert to Spain," the spokesman said.

After water samples were tested, all clients were moved to a new hotel. People who had stayed at the 283-room Diamante in the previous month were advised to see a GP if they had flu-like symptoms.

One of the victims had not previously reported being ill and died in his room at the second hotel on 31 January. Spanish health authorities had put the death down to legionella bacterium, the spokesman said.

"This is clearly a very upsetting time for families and staff. We have sent extra people to Spain to support them in any way we can," the spokesman added.

The company - which specialises in holidays for the over-50s - will offer compensation to those who contracted the bacterium and has suspended sending clients to the hotel, he said.

High-fever

"We have done an inspection of the plumbing and made some recommendations to reduce possibilities of a further outbreak and they will need to make changes before we consider using it again," he added.

Legionnella bacteria is often found in air conditioning or plumbing systems of large buildings which, when inhaled, can cause disease, leading to lung infection or pneumonia.

Symptoms, including high fever, muscle aches and dry coughs, first appear between two and 10 days after exposure.

Those with weakened immune systems, such as elderly people and smokers, are particularly vulnerable.

About a third of the 500 or so cases reported in the UK each year are picked up abroad, with one in 10 proving fatal.

The Foreign Office (FCO) said it was providing consular assistance to those affected by the outbreak and their families.

An FCO spokesman said: "We are aware of an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Calpe, Spain, and the confirmed death of two British nationals as a result."

The names of the dead have not been released.

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