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More Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease Diagnosed Among UK Holidaymakers Returning from Corfu

 
 

Twelve cases of Legionnaires’ disease among holidaymakers returning form the Greek island of Corfu have now been confirmed, says the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

A further three cases are still being investigate and holidaymakers to the Greek island are being warned to be on the lookout for Legionnaires’ disease symptoms for up to two weeks after returning from their holiday.

Legionnaires’ disease is a water-borne infection which causes flu-like symptoms that can develop into pneumonia if not treated at an early stage with antibiotics – some cases prove fatal.

The cases diagnosed so far involve holidaymakers who visited different parts of Corfu and no common link has yet been established by Greek health authorities investigating. The Greek authorities have issued an alert to all public and private hospitals on the island.

The holidaymakers were aged between 39 and 79 and the HPA is also considering whether there is a common link between them or a UK source of the infection.

The HPA is currently working with UK colleagues, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Greek Public Health authorities to establish the source.

So far three different subtypes of Legionnella have been detected in samples from the UK holidaymakers affected. Legionnella bacteria can be present in showerheads, taps and air conditioning units or outlets that have not be cleaned or maintained correctly.

Head of Legionnella surveillance at the HPA, Professor Nick Phin said:

“We are continuing our investigations so that we can provide the best advice for travellers and minimise the risk of further cases.

“We will also continue to assist the Greek Public Health authorities with their extensive investigations into a possible source or sources within Corfu.

“Sometimes a source for the infection is never found, because the bacteria can live in a very wide variety of types of water supply.”

GPs in the UK have been asked to be on the lookout for patients with flu-like symptoms who have returned from Corfu – and holidaymakers are advised to contact their GP or NHS Direct if they have returned from Corfu and feel unwell.

The HPA is current collaborating with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Federation of Tour Operators to warn travel agents about the possible risks from Legionnella to holidaymakers.

The Greek Public Health authorities have issued guidance to healthcare workers on the island of Corfu to help them detect and investigate possible cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

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Dated: 18/10/2011

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