Legionnaires' disease outbreak confirmed in West Bromwich

The disease can be caught through taps and showers. Credit: PA Images

Eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported in West Bromwich in the last week - six of the patients are receiving treatment in hospital. 

Public and environmental health experts from Public Health England (PHE) Midlands, the Health and Safety Executive and Sandwell Council are investigating the cases, along with three laboratory confirmed cases.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacterium called Legionella pneumophila.

Although these bacteria are widely distributed in the environment they can lead to human illness if sources, such as wet air conditioning systems, are not well maintained.

It cannot be passed from person to person.

How can I catch it?

You can catch Legionnaires' disease if you breathe in tiny droplets of water containing bacteria that cause the infection.

It's usually caught in places like hotels, hospitals or offices where the bacteria have got into the water supply. It's very rare to catch it at home.

You can get it from things like:

  • air conditioning systems

  • spa pools and hot tubs

  • showers, taps and toilets

You can’t usually get it from:

  • drinking water containing the bacteria

  • other people with the infection

  • places like ponds, lakes and rivers

What are the symptoms?

You are advised to call 111 now if you have a bad cough and:

  • it does not go away

  • you cannot breathe properly

  • you have severe chest pain

  • you have a high temperature or feel hot and shivery

  • you feel like you have severe flu

Most people make a full recovery with a course of antibiotics but it can take a few weeks to get back to feeling normal. 

Further information can be seen here.

Dr Adrian Philips, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, PHE Midlands Health Protection Team, said: 

“While we do not currently have a direct link between these cases, the evidence we have points to the possibility that there is a common source. 

“We are taking detailed histories of the movements of the individuals to see if there are similar patterns which would help to identify a common local source of infection.

“As a precaution we are working with the Health and Safety Executive and Sandwell Council to identify and control any possible sources of the disease.”

A Sandwell Council spokesman said: 

The council is working closely with PHE and the Health & Safety Executive to find the source of this outbreak and we will continue to do everything we can to support the investigation.”