Legionnaires’ disease – are you at risk?
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I was concerned to learn of a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease which was confirmed in Scotland over the weekend. In my experience as a Travel Law Specialist I have previously dealt with many cases of Legionnaires’ outbreaks. The most recently reported cluster of cases was in 2011 and affected people that had visited Corfu. This was investigated by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Legionnaires’ disease is an infection that kills nearly 50 people a year. Underlying health conditions can worsen the outcomes from the illness, but it can affect completely healthy people and needs immediate medical treatment.
Legionnaires’ is a strain of pneumonia. It’s a bacterial disease that affects the lungs, caused by infected water. The culprit - legionella bacteria - is found in low concentrations in natural water systems including lakes and rivers. Sometimes, however, it can get into artificial systems, such as cooling towers for air conditioning and domestic (usually guesthouse or hotel) water-delivery systems.
In the past I have dealt with cases whereby holidaymakers have returned from their holidays with flu-like symptoms and initially thought that they were simply suffering from a summer cold. It is only upon further investigations and medical intervention that these holidaymakers realise that their symptoms were consistent with Legionnaires’ disease.
You can become infected by the legionella bacteria by inhaling small droplets of infected water, but it’s not contagious so cannot pass from person to person. Also, you can’t become infected by drinking water containing the bacteria. This means that outbreaks are generally contained to a particular building or area.
Symptoms can present themselves anywhere between two and 19 days after exposure. Usually it takes around a week for symptoms to become apparent. The initial phase is hard to recognise with mild headaches and muscle pains but over the next few days more severe, flu-like, symptoms begin. You may experience a fever, more intense muscle pain, chills, tiredness and confusion. The bacteria will then start to affect your lungs, causing a persistent cough, beginning dry but sometimes leading to the coughing up of mucus or occasionally blood. Shortness of breath and chest pain often accompanies this. Less common symptoms include nausea, sickness and diarrhoea.
If you are travelling abroad or to any UK hotel and start to feel unwell it is always worth being cautious and seeking medical attention, especially if you start to suffer unusual flu-like symptoms or sickness and diarrhoea. In most cases it may be nothing more than too much sun or over indulgence. However, in my experience of dealing with holidaymakers who have suffered symptoms of sickness following their return from their annual summers holidays it is always worth being checked over by a medical professional to rule out more serious illnesses. It is important to remember that the elderly and those with other health conditions are at a higher risk. Men are also three times more likely to be affected.
If you have fallen ill or been injured whilst on holiday in the UK or abroad then you could potentially claim for compensation. We can help, just simply contact us on 0800 0384 384 or fill out the claim form here and a specialist travel personal injury lawyer can review your compensation claim for free. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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