Legionnaires' disease is a potentially fatal form of lung infection caused by legionella bacteria. These germs are common throughout natural water supplies, yet outbreaks usually occur when bacteria manage to enter man-made structures, breed and are dispersed in water vapour.
While the condition is not contagious, a person may contract legionnaires' disease by inhaling contaminated droplets of water. Symptoms may start with a mild headache or muscle pain followed by a high fever, chills or changes to a person's mental wellbeing. When the bacteria have reached the lungs, a sufferer may develop a persistent cough, chest pains or a shortness of breath.
If a person starts to develop these symptoms, he or she should immediately seek treatment from a qualified medical professional.
If someone is diagnosed with legionnaires' disease, a doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Depending on a patient's condition, these drugs might have to be taken for several weeks. However, if a person has a pre-existing ailment, they may receive further treatment in hospital.
Fortunately, the condition is quite rare. In 2009, according to the NHS, 345 people in England and Wales were diagnosed with legionnaires' disease. However, 43 people died as a result of infection.
If legionnaires' disease is contracted due to the negligence of someone else, the sufferer may be entitled to claim compensation to fund treatment costs, reimburse any lost earnings or simply improve their quality of life.
Anyone who controls a work premises has a legal duty, under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 , to prevent outbreaks of legionnaires' disease.
According to the legislation, employers or duty-holders must reasonably ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of staff as well as members of the general public who may be affected by activities within the premises.
To find out if a property could contain legionella bacteria, employers should hire a competent person to examine their water sources. A structure may pose a legitimate risk if it:
Although legionella bacteria may develop in any water system, the most common forms of these organisms build-up in cooling towers, spa pools and in temperate water systems.
If a duty-holder's water system might pose a legionella hazard, they must undertake reasonable measures to prevent an outbreak. To reduce the risk, a manger should:
While legionnaires' disease may be fatal, it can be treated.
If you have been diagnosed with legionnaires' and it is the fault of somebody else then get in touch with YouClaim to investigate making a claim for compensation. Our specialists can advise you on whether you have a case. Simply click "start claim" below.