Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Scotland kills man, sickens 15

bacteria, petri dish, super bug, superbug
bacteria, petri dish, super bug, superbug

(CBS/AP) LONDON - Health authorities in Scotland say one man has died and 15 people are in critical condition in hospitals after an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Edinburgh area.

NHS Lothian, the local health authority, says it is investigating another 15 suspected cases.

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It said Tuesday that the man who died was in his 50s and had underlying health conditions.

Health officials are investigating the source of the outbreak. The number of people involved in the outbreak has escalated in the past 48 hours, since the first case emerged last Thursday, The Guardian reported.

The paper said industrial cooling towers in the area are believed to be a potential source of the outbreak and environmental workers have treated 16 cooling towers to try and stop the disease's spread.

Legionnaires' disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated with Legionella bacteria. According to the Mayo Clinic, the disease is a severe form of pneumonia, or lung inflammation. Older adults, smokers and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to the disease but you can't catch it from person-to-person contact.

The bacteria can end up in artificial water supply systems, including air conditioning systems, water services and cooling towers.

Symptoms of Legionnaires' can develop two to 14 days within exposure to the bacteria, and include headache, muscle pain, fever, chills that progress into a cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion and other mental changes, or gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Antibiotics are often prescribed but starting therapy later can result in serious complications or death.