A woman from Merseyside in her late 60s has died after contracting Legionnaires' disease following a stay at a Shropshire hotel, authorities said.

A second woman, also from Merseyside, in her 70s also fell ill after spending time at the Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, which has voluntarily shut on the advice of health specialists.

Experts found samples of potentially fatal Legionella bacteria in water samples at the site, with tests showing "indistinguishable" links to the two guests, Public Health England (PHE) said.

Early signs of the rare Legionnaires' disease include "flu-like" symptoms, such as a dry cough and fever, which can develop into pneumonia.

The hotel is writing to guests who stayed there in the past two weeks advising them to see a doctor if they have any symptoms.

The first woman recovered after being diagnosed in April.

"Sadly, the most recently diagnosed individual, who stayed at the hotel in July, has died," PHE said.

It is understood the woman died in mid-August.

After the bacteria was discovered, the hotel closed affected rooms, disinfected the water system and had contractors examine the boilers and pipework.

Dr David Kirrage, consultant with PHE's West Midlands health protection team, said:

Firstly, my heartfelt condolences go out to those affected by this incident. On the discovery of the presence of Legionella at the hotel, the management implemented public health advice in order to minimise exposure to guests and staff. It closed the affected rooms, disinfected the water system and employed heating contractors to investigate the boilers and pipework.

Dr David Kirrage, consultant with PHE West Midlands Health Protection Team

The hotel will remain closed while the work is completed and the water continues to be tested.

There are between 350 and 400 cases of Legionnaires' disease reported in England and Wales annually, mainly in older people, PHE said.

It is caught by breathing in droplets of contaminated water with bacteria then multiplying in the lungs - but it is not contagious.

Deaths occur in 10 to 15% of the general population, but could be higher in some groups of patients, such as those with compromised immune systems, PHE added.

Our correspondent Charlotte Cross reports: