Plymouth Legionnaires' disease case confirmed

Derriford Hospital, Plymouth The Legionnaires' disease patient is said to be responding well to treatment

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A case of Legionnaires' disease has been confirmed in Plymouth.

It is not known how the patient, who is in Derriford Hospital, contracted the disease.

The potentially fatal lung infection is caught by breathing in droplets of water contaminated by legionella bacteria. It is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person.

Public Health England (PHE) and Plymouth City Council are investigating the source of the infection.

Legionnaires' disease symptoms

  • Aching muscles
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Dry cough
  • Breathlessness
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Confusion

PHE said it appeared to be a "single and isolated case".

"The person affected is currently receiving treatment in Derriford hospital," a statement said.

"As is normal practice, the family of the affected person have been asked a set of questions to try to identify a possible source of the infection."

Legionella bacterium is found in natural sources of water such as streams, lakes and rivers.

However it can also be found in "artificial" water systems such as air conditioning systems, cooling towers, showers and whirlpool spas.

The disease is relatively rare - in 2010 there were 359 reported cases in England and Wales, resulting in 38 deaths.

According to the Office for National Statistics, Legionnaires' disease was responsible for the death of eight men and two women in 2011.

'Flu-like symptoms'

It was first identified in 1976 following an outbreak at a Philadelphia hotel in the US which was hosting a convention of a veteran organisation known as the American Legion. More than 200 people were affected and 34 died.

Although Legionnaires' disease can affect all ages, it is more common in people over 50, particularly men.

The incubation period varies from two days to nearly three weeks. Symptoms include a flu-like illness with muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, dry cough and fever, diarrhoea and confusion.

Most people with Legionnaires' disease make a full recovery, however, in some cases it can lead to further, life-threatening, problems.

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