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Basildon faces legionnaires' disease outbreak probe

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Health chiefs are investigating a possible outbreak of legionnaires’ disease at a hospital that was recently under scrutiny for blood splattered equipment and an unusually high patient mortality rate.

The probe was launched at Basildon University Hospital in Essex after two patients were suspected to be infected with the bacteria.

Tests are now being conducted to discover the source of the suspected outbreak, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Swabs from both the patients, who were staying in different parts of the hospital, have been sent to a laboratory for further analysis, she said.

“We are investigating two suspected cases of legionnaires’ disease,” said the spokeswoman.

“We do lots of testing for legionella in patients who have suspicious respiratory infections.

“We have had problems with the disease before so we are acutely aware of the risk of the bacteria. We have particularly high levels of control and are constantly performing checks and taking preventative measures.”

She said the last outbreak of the disease at the hospital was in 2007.

“It is accepted by experts that it is practically impossible to eradicate legionella bacteria completely on an ongoing basis from large and complex water systems,” she added.

“It has to be contained and controlled by a continuous regime of precautionary measures that we strictly adhere to.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal lung infection that is caused by legionella bacteria. It is contracted when small droplets of contaminated water are breathed in. It cannot spread from person to person.

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