Stoke-on-Trent Legionnaires' source 'could be hot tub'

A hot tub is the "probable" source of an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Staffordshire, health officials have said.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said investigations were taking place at JTF Warehouse in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, and the company was co-operating.

A statement from the firm said: "JTF is extremely concerned and the product has been withdrawn from all stores."

The HPA said there had been 18 cases in the outbreak. One patient has died.

What is Legionnaires' disease?

A disease that can lead to lung infection or pneumonia, it is caused by a bacteria which is found widely in rivers and ponds but can thrive in artificially heated water such as that in hot tubs

Seven people diagnosed with the disease are in hospital in Stoke-on-Trent and another is in a stable condition in hospital in Leicester, the agency said.

'Unusual strain'

Details of the patient who died on Saturday have not been released.

All those affected by the disease, which infects the lungs, are aged between their late 40s and mid-70s.

The HPA said samples from the hot tub at JTF Warehouse were confirmed at a specialist laboratory in Colindale on Monday as being an unusual strain of legionella bacteria and matched those taken from patients.

How is Legionnaires' disease spread?

Hot tub water

Legionnaires' disease is mainly spread through exposure to systems where water is kept at a temperature of between 20-45C which encourages bacteria growth. Systems that do this include cooling towers, spa pools and hot water systems. The risk is increased if the system creates and spreads tiny droplets of water which are easily inhaled.

Dr Sue Ibbotson, from the HPA, said: "We know that 17 of the 18 confirmed cases visited this warehouse in the two weeks before they fell ill.

"We know that spa pools are known to be effective mechanisms for spreading the legionella infection and it can take up to two weeks following exposure for people to develop symptoms of Legionnaires' disease.

"We may still expect to see new cases related to this outbreak."

A statement from JTF Warehouse said: "We have worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive in recent days to identify the cause and eliminate any further risk."

Dr Zafar Iqbal, director of public health, NHS in Stoke, said: "It's good news that we have a probable source, especially as we know it has been dealt with through precautionary measures.

"If people are displaying symptoms of Legionnaires' disease, such as aching muscles, fever, tiredness, headaches and a dry cough, they should see their doctor or contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47."

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