“Urgent Action Needed” As Legionnaires Report Makes Hot Tub Recommendations

Stoke-on-Trent Outbreak Report Identifies Probable Source Of Illness As Victims Seek To Get Lives Back On Track

12.03.2013

Lawyers representing 18 victims of a fatal Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Stoke-on-Trent last summer say it is crucial that lessons are learnt from a damning new Outbreak Report which says guidance on using hot tubs should be reviewed.

The call comes after The Health Protection Agency released its Outbreak report raising questions about the use of hot tubs in public displays and recommending that the guidance on management of legionnella bacteria is reviewed.

Illness experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are taking legal action on behalf of the families of two people who died as a result of the outbreak in July and August last year, as well as 16 others – many of whom continue to suffer even now from ongoing respiratory and fatigue problems as a result of the illness.

The Outbreak Report states:

  • That all 21 victims reported visiting the JTF Warehouse in Fenton while a hot tub display was in operation;
  • The hot tub tested positive for the same strand of legionnella bacteria found in many of the victims;
  • That there have been previous instances of Legionnaires’ disease from hot tub displays in other countries;
  • The incident raises the question of whether the display of hot tubs should be banned where the general population has access;That guidance on the management of hot tubs should be reviewed and circulated more widely.

Clive Garner, a Partner and an illness expert at Irwin Mitchell who has represented many victims of Legionnaires’ disease from incidents around the world, says that lessons have not been learnt from past disasters and is calling on the authorities to ensure they take urgent action to put an end to future outbreaks.

Irwin Mitchell is also currently representing more than 30 victims of another fatal Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Edinburgh in May last year as well as victims of the illness in hotels in Spain.

Garner said: “More than 10 years ago the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published a special report after the Barrow Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, which killed seven and affected 180 others, to stop this kind of tragedy from happening again.

“However five people died and more than 120 people suffered from Legionnaires’ disease last summer in two outbreaks in Stoke-on-Trent and Edinburgh, proving that previous plans to prevent further outbreaks of the illness have clearly failed.

“There are still hundreds of reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease every year. This is unacceptable and the fact that this latest report is now making further recommendations shows that more needs to be done to ensure these outbreaks are stopped once and for all.”

He added: “The risks associated with hot tubs on display have been known for many years and have been the cause of outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in other countries. Strict guidelines are in place to prevent the spread of legionnella bacteria; such as rigorous maintenance and management with the appropriate chemicals.

“However the Outbreak Report says the guidelines of hot tubs should be reviewed and efforts made to improve awareness of this guidance. It is now vital that these recommendations are followed up by the authorities to ensure that lessons are learnt from this dreadful situation.”

June Clews, 64, from Porthill, was one of the first people to be diagnosed and spent 10 days in hospital with breathing problems and a fever. She continues to suffer from fatigue and has difficulty in breathing which has left her unable to do things without the support of her daughter.

She said: “A few days after I’d been to the shop and sat next to the hot tub I became really ill with a terrible headache, problems with my breathing and I was sweating even though I was very cold. Nurses originally said it was pneumonia but as I got worse they realised it was Legionnaires’ disease.

“I’m relieved they managed to identify the source quite quickly and although a lot of people were affected it could have been so much worse. I hope they now make sure that they do all they can to stop it from happening again as it has affected so many lives.”

Garner said: “We hope that now the report has been published those responsible for the store will admit liability for the illness suffered by our clients so that we can help them to access the exact level of care and support they now need.

“We are currently working with medical experts to investigate their longer term condition and prognosis and we hope to conclude their cases as soon as possible so that they can begin to move on with their lives.”

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