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Legionnaires in UK travellers returning from Corfu



The Health Protection Agency has issued a press release about a possible outbreak of legionnaires’ disease in people who have recently travelled to Corfu - updated 14/10/2011.
 

As of 14 October, 12 cases have been reported in UK travellers to Corfu since August. Six cases have required admission to ICU.
 
Although these cases all have a history of recent travel to Corfu, a UK source of infection cannot be ruled out at this stage. As a precautionary measure the HPA will be investigating possible sources in the UK, as well as collaborating with the authorities in Greece in investigating possible sources in Corfu. The patients, whose ages range from 39 to 79 and are geographically spread across England and Wales, had visited a number of different areas of the island.
 
Legionella bacterium has the potential to cause Legionnaires’ disease which begins with flu-like symptoms and can lead to pneumonia. Legionnaires’ disease is uncommon but is a potentially life threatening illness. Most cases are sporadic, although outbreaks can occur. It generally occurs in adults and cannot be passed from person to person. It can be treated with antibiotics.
 
People become infected when they inhale Legionella bacteria which are spread through the air in the form of a fine mist or droplets from a contaminated water source.
 
People travelling to Corfu should be aware of the signs and symptoms of legionnaires disease and should seek medical advice promptly if symptoms develop either in Corfu or within two weeks of return to the UK.
 
GPs should also be on the alert for recent travellers to Corfu displaying flu-like symptoms and are reminded that legionnaires disease is now a notifiable disease as listed in schedule 1 of the Health Protection (Notification) (Wales) Regulations 2010. Suspected cases should have a urine sample taken for Legionella antigen. The HPA recommend that cases with a positive urine antigen should have a sputum sample taken to tie in with any environmental investigations. Early detection and the early use of appropriate antibiotics are important in terms of severity and outcome.
 
Further information about legionnaires disease, including signs and symptoms, is available from the Public Health Wales website at: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/44350
 
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) have assessed that the risk to tourists to Corfu is low. More information is available on the NaTHNaC website at: http://www.nathnac.org/
 
Surveillance data for legionnaires disease in Wales is available from the Public Health Wales Health Protection website at: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgid=457&pid=49086
 
Further information about this outbreak is available from the HPA website at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/HPAwebHome/
 

Source: Public Health Wales Health Protection Division