Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Staffordshire blamed on hot tub

Samples taken from tub at JTF Mega Discount Warehouse in Stoke-on-Trent match those from patients

Health authorities say a hot tub is the “probable” source of an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease in Staffordshire.

Samples taken from a tub at the Stoke-on-Trent branch of the JTF Mega Discount Warehouse match those taken from patients with an unusual strain of the bacteria responsible for the disease. There have been 18 cases linked to the outbreak. One person has died.

A statement from the firm, which has 11 branches across the Midlands and north of England, said it was “extremely concerned by this incident”, and had worked closely with authorities to eliminate any further risk. The product has been withdrawn from all stores.

Seven people are in hospital in Stoke-on-Trent and another is in a stable condition in hospital in Leicester, health agencies said on Monday. The tub was “decommissioned” on Tuesday as investigations were launched across the city to identify the possible source of the outbreak. Cooling towers, air conditioning systems and other potential sites of infection have also been checked.

Specialists from the Health and Safety Executive and Stoke-on-Trent council are continuing to take samples from sites across the city.

The probable link with the spa tub was established by the specialist laboratory of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the NHS’s main public health body, late on Sunday. Sue Ibbotson, the agency’s regional director, said: “We have the evidence from DNA fingerprinting of samples from the hot tub and the patients being caused by the same previously unseen strain of legionella.

“The HPA also took detailed histories from the confirmed cases and we know that 17 of the 18 confirmed cases visited this warehouse in the two weeks before they fell ill. Added to that we know that spa pools are known to be effective mechanisms for spreading legionella infection.

“We may still expect to see new cases of legionnaires’ disease related to this outbreak. JTF Warehouse decommissioned the hot tub on 24 July. It can take up to two weeks following exposure for people to develop symptoms of legionnaires’ disease and a further few days before they go to see their GP.”

Zafar Iqbal, director of public health for the NHS in Stoke, said: “It’s good news that we have a probable source, especially as we know that it has been dealt with through precautionary measures last week.”

Those in hospital are all said to be in a “stable and improving” condition.

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