Legionnaires' Outbreak: Cases Expected To Decrease This Week

10/06/2012 09:36 BST | Updated 10/06/2012 09:37 BST

Cases of the deadly Legionnaires' disease are expected to decrease this week, but health officials say they cannot yet be sure the outbreak has reached its peak.

Latest figures on Saturday evening revealed there were 80 confirmed and suspected cases of Legionnaires' disease from the outbreak in the south-west of Edinburgh.

This was an increase of eight in the total number of confirmed cases and a decrease of two suspected cases from the previous update.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Edinburgh City Council are continuing their investigations into the possible source of the outbreak.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday that it was reassuring to see that the number of suspected cases was decreasing and that 16 people have now been discharged from hospital, but doctors said it was premature to say the outbreak had now peaked.

legionanries bactria

A micrograph picture of the Legionionella pneumophilia bactera. The bacteria replicates quickly, part of what makes the disease so infectious

Dr Duncan McCormick, chairman of the Incident Management Team at NHS Lothian, said the number of patients with confirmed or suspected Legionnaires' disease was in line with the health boards expectations.

He said: "Infection with Legionella mainly causes mild symptoms. If symptoms are more severe and include pneumonia then the patient will be diagnosed with Legionnaires' Disease.

"Now that we are seeing more cases in the community with less severe symptoms, we have refined our recording of suspected cases to be only those suffering from pneumonia."

Of those cases of the disease being treated in hospital, 15 are in intensive care and 27 are in general wards.

A total of 16 cases are being treated in the community, 16 have been discharged from hospital.

So far one man has died, named locally as 56-year-old Robert Air, from Seafield in Edinburgh.

robert air

Robert Air, 56, from the Seafield area of the city, has died from the disease

The search for the source of the disease outbreak has centred on cooling towers at four sites in the south-west of the city, which have been "shock-treated'' with chemicals.

An improvement notice has been served on the North British Distillery Company for alleged failures to adequately control the risk of legionella in a cooling tower.

The company said it took three towers out of use on Thursday and is working with the authorities to resolve the issue.

HSE said the improvement notice does not mean the distillery is where the outbreak originated.