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Legionnaire’s Disease Claims 35th Victim; Highest Toll Ever

May 13, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ The death toll in what is believed to be the world’s worst outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease rose to 35 today when an 84-year-old man died at a hospital in central England, health officials said.

In the worst previous outbreak, 34 people died after the influenza-like ailment spread at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in July 1976, the first identified incidence of the disease.

The mid-Staffordshire Health Authority said the latest victim died at Kingsmead Geriatric Hospital in Stafford. A total of 158 people have been hospitalized in the Stafford area since the outbreak three weeks ago.

Health authority spokesman Keith Jones said 68 people with symptoms of the disease are still being treated. Of the 35 who have died, scientists have confirmed that 13 were victims of Legionnaires’ disease.

Jones said the other 22 people were also thought to have died after coming in contact with the bacteria, but their cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Thirty-four of the victims have died at hospitals in Stafford, 124 miles northwest of London, and one in a hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, 10 miles north of Stafford.

Despite reports of cases of Legionnaires’ disease outside Stafford, authorities believe the outbreak was been confined to a single source. Air- conditioning cooling towers on the roof of Stafford District General Hospital are the suspected cause.

Most of the victims were middle-aged or elderly, and had visited the outpatient department of the hospital - part of Britain’s state-run National Health Service - prior to the outbreak.

The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease grow in water and soil and can be transmitted by water or mist.

Dr. Spence Galbraith, director of the government’s Communicable Disease Surveillance Center, has said mist from the hospital cooling towers may have been blown through the windows of the outpatient department by the wind.

Two other people have died from Legionnaire’s disease elsewhere in England, but scientists said there was no evidence to link them with the deaths in the Stafford area.

A nurse died May 2 in the southwestern city of Bristol, and a woman died last month in the southern city of Portsmouth.

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