Illness Experts Say Lessons Must Be Learnt To Avoid Future Legionnaires’ Cases

Three Victims Now Taking Legal Action As Health Experts Identify ‘Probable Source’ Of Stoke Outbreak


Expert lawyers representing three people suffering from Legionnaires’ Disease in the Stoke-on-Trent outbreak say lessons must be learnt to avoid future illness after a ‘probable source’ was identified.

All three people now represented by illness specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell were admitted to hospital after losing consciousness and suffering with high temperatures, severe headaches and vomiting, chest problems and flu-like symptoms.

They had all visited the JTF Warehouse in Fenton just days before they fell ill and had spent time in the cafe directly above the hot-tub believed by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to be the ‘probable source’.

As well as three people affected by Legionnaires’ Disease in Stoke-on-Trent, Irwin Mitchell is currently representing more than 30 people who fell victim to the recent outbreak of the illness in Edinburgh.

Amandeep Dhillon, a specialist at Irwin Mitchell, has extensive experience of representing victims of Legionnaires’ Disease and the families of those tragically killed by the disease. He said: “It is very worrying to see the number of confirmed Legionnaires’ Disease cases increasing and two people diagnosed with the illness have now died so it’s an extremely serious situation.

“Now that a probable source has been identified the focus must turn to finding out what went wrong so that lessons can be learned to prevent similar outbreaks in future. Our clients want answers as to what happened and why they have become ill.

“Most important of all has to be the health and welfare of the victims and final confirmation of the exact source of the Legionella bacteria to reassure people that the risk of further illness has been prevented. From our experience of working with the victims of Legionnaires’ Disease, it is crucial that if members of the public do start experiencing any of the symptoms they seek immediate medical assistance.”

There are now 20 confirmed cases in the outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease in Stoke-on-Trent with two having died and 18 others needing hospital treatment.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the spa pool which is on sale at the JTF Mega Discount Warehouse, off King Street, Fenton, is the ‘probable source’ after it was revealed that at least 17 of the 20 victims had recently visited the store. The spa was shut down two weeks ago as a precaution but the rest of the store remained open.

Legionnaires’ Disease victim Kenneth Hill, of Islay Walk, Stoke-on-Trent, is one of the people who has now instructed Irwin Mitchell to investigate legal action. He said it was a ‘terrifying experience’ as he collapsed on two consecutive days and was rushed by ambulance to hospital where chest x-rays confirmed his diagnosis.

The 69-year-old was in hospital for 10 days and had to be hooked up to a drip and oxygen mask. He had visited the JTF Warehouse just a week earlier.

Kenneth said: “The roof in the shop was leaking in many places and buckets were placed in some of the aisles to catch the water. I was sat in the cafe for a while which was directly above the hot tub. It’s been a terrifying experience, not only having to be rushed to hospital but then to be placed on a drip with an oxygen mask.

“I was in the hospital with a few others too and we were all interviewed by Environmental Health officers who were investigating where we had all been.

“I just hope others don’t now get ill and hopefully now they think they might have found out what caused it they can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Peter Martin, 60, from Stone, Staffordshire, who has also instructed Irwin Mitchell, said: “I just popped in to JTF to buy paper plates for our Scout group’s AGM. I went in the cafe for about an hour and was mingling around where the hot tubs were. 

“It was about four days later when I was ill and at first, I thought I just had flu or something like that but, after a couple of days off work, I was still suffering and was referred to Stafford Hospital by my GP. They did all sorts of tests and x-rays and, when I found out it was Legionnaires’ Disease, I was shocked. You just don’t expect to get such a serious condition.”

Peter Talbot from Werrington, Staffordshire, became ill four days after visiting the store to buy boots for his son. The 58-year-old first suffered the same serious flu-like symptoms as others on 13 July - four days after visiting the JTF store.

He had two days off work before going to the doctors believing he had a bad chest infection.

Peter Talbot said: “The doctor immediately admitted me to hospital and told me it was likely to be pneumonia but after running tests they found out it was Legionnaires’ Disease.”

While at the University of North Stafford Hospital he was in intensive care and lost consciousness on a number of occasions.

“I have read the news about the Legionnaires’ Disease and it’s been so scary not really knowing what is going on. So many people must have walked past the hot tub as it was near the entrance to the shop.”

Other recent cases being pursued by the firm include those for the victims of the recent outbreak among guests at the Diamante Beach hotel in Calpe, Spain. In that case, the firm’s experts have been instructed by the families of four British guests who died, as well as several other victims left seriously ill.

Dhillon added: “There are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection with Legionella bacteria. The disease is normally contracted by inhaling contaminated droplets of water which means the hot tub would fit the criteria as a potential source.

“While it is too early to tell exactly what happened in this case, in our experience the reason for infection has usually been the failure to take simple preventative steps. These include maintaining stored water within the safe temperature range and making use of an appropriate level of chlorination. Protocols specifically designed to reduce the risk of infection are widely known and it is a concern to see several major outbreaks within a few months.”

Environmental health specialists, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Stoke-on-Trent City Council are continuing to investigate the outbreak.