Outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Costa Brava
14 September 2012
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is aware of seven confirmed and one possible case of Legionnaires’ disease in people who have stayed or visited Blanes in Costa Brava. Cases are from Spain, the Netherlands and Latvia. The age range of the patients, who are all recovering, is from 48 to 82 years. There are no UK cases associated with this outbreak.
The Spanish local health authorities are currently investigating possible sources of this outbreak and ABTA – the Travel Association has been informed and will contact their members. The Department of Health and the HPA are closely monitoring the situation for evidence of any UK impact.
Around 350 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in England and Wales are reported to the HPA each year - and one third to half of all these cases are associated with overseas travel.
Professor Nick Phin, head of Legionnaires’ surveillance at the HPA said: “It’s likely that UK tourists will have visited or stayed in Blanes in recent months and given that the most recent case fell ill at the beginning of September, it’s possible that UK residents who recently stayed in or visited the locality may yet develop Legionnaires’ disease.
“Anyone who develops ‘flu like’ symptoms or shortness of breath within two weeks of returning from an overseas holiday should seek medical advice from NHS Direct or their GP.
“Although the risk of developing Legionnaires' disease is very low, the pneumonia it causes can have a severe impact in older people or those with pre-existing health conditions. It’s important it is diagnosed early in order to start treatment as soon as possible to reduce the impact of the infection.
“Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person so once a likely source is identified control measures can be put in place immediately, to reduce the risk of further cases.”
Notes for editors:
- Legionnaires' disease is caused by the Legionella bacteria, which lives naturally in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs but can also be found in cooling towers and domestic water systems. Legionnaires' disease can be contracted by breathing in droplets of water containing the legionella bacterium from water sources where there have been problems with controlling the temperature of the water or it has lain stagnant for some time. Spas, shower heads or taps can then provide the means by which aerosols or fine droplets are produced. In the recent Spanish outbreak the whirlpool in the hotel has been implicated as the most likely source of the problem.
- Early symptoms are flu-like with muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, dry cough, breathlessness and fever that can lead to pneumonia. As with any pneumonia, the patient can become very unwell. Diarrhoea and confusion may occur in addition to chest and breathing problems. It is usually six or seven days after exposure that the individual would begin to show symptoms, however in most cases the infection responds to treatment with the appropriate antibiotics.
- Latest figures for Legionnaires’ disease including travel related cases.
- Health Protection report released today with further information.
- Further information about Legionnaires’ disease is available on the Legionnaires page and at the NHS choices website [external link].
- For general travel health advice please visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website [external link].
- For The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013 the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk.
- For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.
Last reviewed: 14 September 2012