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Legionnaires' disease outbreak warning after holidaymakers struck down

Holidaymakers who have enjoyed a trip to Majorca are being warned to be vigilant amid an outbreak of a serious lung infection.

Eighteen British tourists have been diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease after returning from the western coast of the Spanish island this summer.

Early signs of the rare Legionnaires' disease include "flu-like" symptoms, such as a dry cough and fever, which can develop into pneumonia.

There are between 350 and 400 cases of Legionnaires' disease reported in England and Wales annually, mainly in older people, PHE said.

It is caught by breathing in droplets of contaminated water with bacteria then multiplying in the lungs - but it is not contagious.

Deaths occur in 10 to 15% of the general population, but could be higher in some groups of patients, such as those with compromised immune systems, PHE added.

PHE has urged both recent and future travellers to Majorca to be aware of the symptoms.

The health watchdog has noted a spike in cases among Brits who stayed in a town popular with tourists called Palmanova.

Anyone can be affected, but people aged 50 and over, smokers, heavy drinkers and anyone with an underlying medical conditions or weakened immune system is at increased risk.

Sufferers catch the infection by breathing in contaminated water, which can be spread through air condition systems or spas, rather than being transmitted from person to person.

Large buildings such as hotels, hospitals, museums and hospitals are particularly vulnerable to being contaminated.

There is no vaccine against the infection, but it can be fairly easily treated through antibiotics and around 90% of people make a full recovery after a few weeks.

Dr Gavin Dabrera, head of PHE’s Legionella and flu response team, said: “Since September, 18 British travellers who stayed in Palmanova have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease; those affected travelled to Palmanova from different parts of the UK.”

Nick Phin, Deputy Director at PHE added: “The source is under investigation and the Spanish authorities are leading the response to this outbreak.

“We are advising people who have travelled or are planning to travel to Palmanova in Majorca to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, which are initially flu-like.

“If you do experience symptoms, speak to your GP as soon as possible and inform them of your travel.”

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