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Convict Felled by Legionnaires

A prisoner from Ireland has reportedly succumbed to Legionnaires’ disease. //

Jack Russell was admitted to Causeway hospital for treatment where a test revealed the presence of the bacteria Legionella pnuemophila, which causes the disease.

Legionnaires' disease is a rare form of pneumonia. It takes its name from the first known outbreak, which occurred in a hotel that was hosting a convention of the Pennsylvania Department of the American Legion in 1976.

Test results of the water supply in the healthcare center of the prison have shown the presence of the legionella bacterium, a spokesman said.

After consultation with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Western Health and Social Services Board, six other prisoners held in the health care center have been moved away. None of them have been reported to have the flu-like symptoms of the disease.

The disease is fatal in approximately 5 per cent to 15 per cent of cases but cannot passed from one person to another.

Legionnaires’ is most often contracted by inhaling mist from water sources such as whirlpool baths, showers, and cooling towers, which are contaminated with bacteria, or other bacteria in the family Legionellaceae.

If the bacteria reach the lungs it can cause the disease.

The disease can only be contracted from a contaminated water system and mass outbreaks of the disease are rare.

Initial symptoms are similar to those of flu. These are followed by high fever and shaking chills. In addition, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur. Mental changes, such as confusion, disorientation, hallucination and loss of memory are seen in some cases. Some patients may also develop pneumonia, which could affect both lungs and lead to hospitalization if severe.

"Something like putting on a tap or shower fast can cause small particles to splay into the air for a short space of time where it could be i nhaled, and we will be looking into whether that happened and how it could be prevented”, says Dr. Richard Smithson, an expert at the Western Health and Social Services Board.

The discovery comes six months after a similar incident directly opposite the facility.

A province-wide alert was sparked in August after a luxury hotel in Donegal closed its spa pool due to high levels of legionella bacteria.

Guests at the Carlton Redcastle Hotel were ordered out of the pool after test results were found to be above the acceptable levels of the bacteria.

Yet, prison governor Tom Woods says he does not think the death was connected to the bacteria.

"The gentleman concerned had serious medical complications and was terminally ill. "We haven't seen the post mortem results, he would have been with a low immune system very susceptible to different viruses and bugs. "Until we get the definitive post mortem results we'll not really know, but at this stage the indications are that he did not die of Legionnaires' disease."


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