Legionnaires' disease probe at hospital

INVESTIGATIONS are today underway as health chiefs examine a potential outbreak of legionnaires' disease at an Essex hospital recently under scrutiny for an unusually high mortality rate.

INVESTIGATIONS are today underway as health chiefs examine a potential outbreak of legionnaires' disease at an Essex hospital recently under scrutiny for an unusually high mortality rate.

The probe was launched at Basildon University Hospital after two patients were suspected to be infected with the bacteria, the same hospital criticised in November for blood-splattered equipment.

A hospital spokeswoman said tests are being carried out to discover the source of the suspected outbreak.

Swabs have been taken from both patients, who have been staying in different parts of the hospital, and have been sent away to a laboratory for further analysis.


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The spokeswoman said: “We are investigating two suspected cases of legionnaires' disease. We do lots of testing for legionella in patients who have suspicious respiratory infections.

“We have had problems with the disease before so we are acutely aware of the risk of the bacteria. We have particularly high levels of control and are constantly performing checks and taking preventative measures. It is accepted by experts that it is practically impossible to eradicate the legionella bacteria completely on an ongoing basis from large and complex water systems,” the spokeswoman added.

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“It has to be contained and controlled by a continuous regime of precautionary measures that we strictly adhere to.”

The potentially fatal lung infection, caused by the bacteria legionella, is commonly found in sources of water such as rivers and lakes but can sometimes find their way into artificial water supply systems.

It is contracted when small droplets of contaminated water are breathed in but it cannot be spread from person to person.

The disease can cause symptoms including headaches, fever, chills, muscle pain and coughs. It is estimated 10% of people who contract legionnaires' disease will die from complications arising from the infection.

In November the Care Quality Commission criticised Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust after inspectors discovered blood stains on floors and curtains, blood splattered on trays used to carry equipment and badly soiled mattresses in the A&E department.

Equipment designed to be used just once was found to be used repeatedly and resuscitation room equipment was discovered past its use-by-date.

On December 23, the watchdog said hygiene standards were improving and the trust has taken action to address concerns about infection prevention and control.

It said further checks would be carried out on the trust, including unannounced spot-inspections to ensure recommendations for improvement are being acted upon.

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