An outbreak of Legionnaire's disease has hit the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, with one death and at least 17 confirmed cases of the disease so far.
A further 15 people are currently suspected of having the disease. Health officials are working flat out to discover the source of the bacteria that causes the disease, which has an incubation period of between two and fourteen days, according to the BBC.
16 cooling towers in the city have been treated to kill off the bacteria whilst other water sources are also being tested. The spread of patients seems to come from an area of around 44 square miles which includes the Saughton, Dalry and Gorgie areas of the city. It takes around ten days for test results from samples taken at cooling towers etc to be completed.
The Daily Mail reports that the person who has died is a man in his fifties who had underlying health problems. The paper reports that those affected so far are men and women between 33 and 74 years of age. It is expected that more cases will appear over the next few days as the first case appeared on May 14.
The Scottish newspaper, The Daily Record, quotes Dr Duncan McCormick. public health expert, as saying:
"I would like to reassure the public that household water supplies are safe and that Legionnaires’ disease cannot be contracted by drinking water."
The World Health Organization fact sheet on the illness says that :
"Legionellosis is a serious and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia. It is caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila and other legionella species. These bacteria are found naturally in the environment and thrive in warm water and warm damp places."
Infection is caused by the breathing in of infected droplets of water . It is not possible to pass it from person to person. The disease first presents symptoms similar to a bad dose of the 'flu with headaches, muscle pain and fever, then in those who are more susceptible such as drinkers, smokers and those with other illnesses, it may develop into a severe form of pneumonia. It is treated with antibiotics and the sooner the patient is treated, the more likely they are to recover.
Anyone in Edinburgh who has developed flu like symptoms in the last few days is advised to visit their family doctor immediately.