Interim report into Edinburgh Legionnaires’ outbreak

The board of NHS Lothian will, tomorrow (Wednesday 24 July), be presented with an interim report into last year’s Legionnaires’ outbreak which affected the south west of Edinburgh

Between late May and late June 2012, 56 people who had links to south west Edinburgh, where confirmed as suffering from Legionnaires’ disease.  Four of these people died and the Health and Safety enforcing authorities are investigating the circumstances of their deaths, under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Health and Safety Division.

A specialist investigation of the fourth death has been completed recently.

Professor Alison McCallum, Director of Public Health and Health Policy at NHS Lothian will present the interim report to the board. She will highlight that the analysis of information around people’s movements and the dates their symptoms started, in addition to analysis of the weather patterns at the time, indicate that there was an airborne release of legionella bacteria in south west Edinburgh around the end of May 2012.

Professor McCallum will also point out that the review of the outbreak management found that the locally coordinated public health, environmental and clinical response helped prevent the ongoing exposure to Legionella bacteria for the population of south west Edinburgh and had a positive impact in preventing more people becoming seriously ill.

Professor McCallum said: “It is one year since the outbreak and we understand the community’s desire to move on.

“While elements of the investigation are ongoing, a comprehensive review of the actions taken during the outbreak has been carried out and a range of recommendations have been made.

“These recommendations are being progressed across a number of organisations to ensure that those involved in responding to this outbreak, and others, can be even better prepared in the event of similar circumstances in the future.”

One of the key recommendations is that the template that was developed during the outbreak to help record and analyse the complex microbiological and environmental information be incorporated into national guidance.

Other recommendations which are currently being worked on include further revisions to the national guidance and plans to rehearse the local multiagency outbreak plan.

Notes to Editors:

  • There were a total of 92 cases identified in the outbreak; 56 confirmed cases and 36 probable and possible. Nine cases were identified outwith NHS Lothian. 
  • Over 1000 patients were investigated and treated in primary care. Forty-five of the confirmed cases were admitted to acute hospitals in NHS Lothian.   
  • The report can be viewed on the NHS Lothian below.