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Legionnaires’ Claims 2 in Britain

August 9, 2002

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LONDON (AP) _ A second person has died of Legionnaires’ disease in the worst outbreak of the illness in Britain in a decade, health officials said Friday.

Officials said a woman, aged in her 50s, died overnight after contracting the disease that has infected more than 100 others from a town in England’s north. Her name was not released.

More than 90 people remain hospitalized _ 20 in intensive care _ 10 days after the disease was first detected. An 89-year-old man, Richard Macaulay, died a week ago.

Public health officials investigating the outbreak said they believed its source was the air conditioning system at a community center in the town of Barrow-in-Furness.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria in water droplets. The legionella bacteria are found in water, and the source of infection in most major outbreaks has been water in the heating or air conditioning systems of public buildings.

Some people can be infected with the bug and have mild symptoms or no illness at all, but between 5 percent and 30 percent of the infected die.

Ian Cumming, Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust chief executive, said doctors were anticipating new cases over the weekend because of the disease’s long incubation period.

``This is a very nasty disease and people do tend to deteriorate very quickly,″ Cumming told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. ``Obviously we are hoping we will not see any more deaths, it’s too soon to be complacent.″

So far, more than 1,250 people have been tested for the bug _ equivalent to more than one in 60 people living in the Cumbrian port town.

Tests conducted on the water plant at the community center revealed legionella bacteria.

The local council that runs the community center has turned over all documents to police. A council officer responsible for maintenance of the center’s air conditioning system was suspended Sunday pending the results of a police and Health and Safety Executive investigation.

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