It has been very worrying to learn of the recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease on the popular holiday island of Majorca, where one British man has died and another 19 people were taken ill.
It has led to a wide-scale investigation into how the outbreak happened, with a second man from the UK requiring treatment in hospital.
The rest of those from the UK who were taken ill are now reportedly back and are said to have been given the all-clear, or are recovering from their illness.
However, as people have been falling ill since early October, and Legionnaires’ disease (a serious lung infection) has an incubation period of 14 days, we may yet see more cases in the weeks to come.
Initial symptoms usually include flu-like symptoms such as headaches, muscle pain and fever, with symptoms of pneumonia once bacteria begin to infect the lungs.
It is therefore certainly worth acting with caution, and seeing a doctor quickly if you have recently returned from the island and have been feeling unwell.
Cases have been widespread – suggesting problem is linked to ‘tourist activity’
Without doubt, Legionnaires’ disease is a serious and life-threatening illness, and the particularly worrying thing here is that it is not an illness which is contagious.
It is usually caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water, often contained in water systems and spread as bacteria is carried in the mist from items such as showers, hot tubs, air conditioning units, hot water tanks.
Health chiefs in Majorca say they have taken positive samples at one unnamed hotel in Palmanova where nine of those affected were staying. That hotel has been closed as its water supply was shut down.
However, it has also been revealed that the holidaymakers diagnosed with Legionnaires’ had been staying at a total of seven hotels in the resort.
To see so many cases, in different locations, suggests a potentially wide-scale problem.
It has led officials to concluding the problem is likely to be ‘tourism related’, resulting in some beach shower facilities, a water fountain in Palmanova, and water sprinklers being shut down as investigations continue.
Problem could be widespread – raising questions over compliance of facilities owners
As a holiday illness claims specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, I feel serious questions certainly now need to be asked as to where the source of this outbreak has been – and whether there has actually been more than a single source. I would think the latter to be likely.
It would appear very possible that there may have been a number of facilities on the island potentially putting people at risk by not doing enough to prevent Legionella developing in their systems.
Any operators of water-based facilities used by the tourist industry found to have had Legionella in their systems must face serious questions as to how often they carried out risk assessments and work to prevent the bacteria.
They should have documentation to prove they have been meeting their requirements.
This outbreak certainly casts doubt as to whether these kinds of facilities, such as outdoor showers, spa pools and of course the air conditioning we rely on to keep us cool, are managed to the levels of cleanliness and hygiene we expect.
Most of us use facilities like these daily when on holidays abroad, and we quite rightly expect them to be maintained to the highest standards and not be a risk to our health.
It is simply not acceptable if that is not the case.