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Edinburgh Outbreak – Scotland in the news again

Six people are in hospital and a further four are receiving medical attention after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Edinburgh.

NHS Lothian is investigating four confirmed and four suspected cases of the Legionella bacteria in the Gorgie, Dalry, and Saughton areas of the capital.

Six men are being treated in hospitals throughout Lothian. Five of the men are in intensive care units while the sixth is in a high dependency unit.

A further four cases, as yet unconfirmed, are also being probed.

All ten cases are linked geographically to the Dalry, Gorgie and Saughton areas of Edinburgh.

The source of the outbreak is being investigated by officials from Edinburgh Council’s Environmental Health Department and the Health and Safety Executive who are concentrating on the south-west Edinburgh area.

Steps are being taken to treat cooling towers in the area as a precaution until the source is located.

Dona Milne, acting director of Public Health and Health Policy for NHS Lothian, said: “We have four confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease which all seem to come from the same point source in the South West of Edinburgh.

“Anybody who develops symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease should contact NHS 24 immediately or go to their GP.

“The safety of the public is our number one priority and we would urge people to look out for the symptoms of this disease.”

Duncan McCormick, consultant in public health for NHS Lothian said: “Investigations into the possible source of this outbreak are on-going and we continue to urge anyone who develops symptoms of Legionnaires disease to contact NHS 24 or go to their GP.”

The cases currently under investigation arose between May 28 and Monday, June 4. All GP surgeries in Lothian are open on Monday but some will be closed on Tuesday for the Jubilee holiday.

Legionella bacteria is commonly found in sources of water, such as rivers and lakes but can also enter artificial supply systems such as air conditioning devices, hot and cold water facilities, and cooling towers. The bacteria have the potential to spread rapidly once they have entered a water system.

Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water. The condition is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person.

Symptoms usually begin within three to six days of contraction. They often originate as mild headaches and muscular pain before escalating to more severe symptoms including high fever, intense muscle pain, and chills. Once the bacteria infect the lungs, the sufferer will experience a persistent cough – dry at first but later bringing up mucus and even blood – shortness of breath, and chest pains.

There is also a risk of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite, while around half of those who contract Legionnaires’ disease will also suffer changes to their mental state, such as confusion.

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