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Margate: Legionella bacteria discovered in 11 water outlets at QEQM

By Aidan Barlow

A potentially deadly bacteria was discovered in 11 water outlets at a Kent hospital after a patient contracted Legionnaires’ disease.

The East Kent Hospitals Trust says the man was exposed to Legionella pneumophila at the QEQM Hospital in Margate in September.

Emergency meetings were held and anyone who had shared a ward with the patient was contacted by staff, although no other positive cases were reported.

Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital, Margate
Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital, Margate

Tests were also carried out on four wards and the Legionella bacteria was discovered in 11 water outlets.

Five of them were on Minster Ward, where the patient had been staying.

A further four were found on Seabathing Ward and two on Bishopstone Ward.

The water-borne bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease when it infects people’s lungs, but can also cause milder infections similar to flu.

It is associated with large buildings and complex water supply systems, where the bacteria can have the right conditions to spread if it goes unchecked.

The news from the Margate hospital follows a similar scare in August 2009, when a patient died and five others had to be treated after contracting the bacteria at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

QEQM
QEQM

East Kent NHS spokesman Steve James said: “One patient admitted to the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital was diagnosed with Legionella pneumonia in September.

“We have identified all patients who may have been exposed, and there have been no further cases.

“Legionella pneumophila is transmitted in water and can cause pneumonia or a flu-like illness.

“The incidence of Legionnaires' disease depends upon the degree of water reservoir contamination, the intensity of a person’s exposure to that water, and the susceptibility of the person.

“The most common route of transmission is through aerosolisation from water outlets such as shower heads.

“We routinely monitor the hospital water systems, and showers in the hospital wing where the patient was admitted have had special filters fitted for over a year, specifically to guard against the infection.

“We have tested this wing of the hospital extensively and are undertaking some remedial work where necessary, such as removing any redundant pipework and replacing some taps. Hyperchlorination will also be carried out when the work is complete.”

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