A guest who stayed at The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow has died from Legionnaires’ disease, it was revealed today.
The hotel has closed as a precautionary measure on the advice of health professionals from Public Health England in the West Midlands and Shropshire Council.
The voluntary move follows laboratory test results establishing links between Legionella bacteria found in water samples from the hotel plumbing and two separate, confirmed cases of Legionnaires disease in guests both from Merseyside who stayed at the hotel.
The first case was diagnosed in April and the individual recovered. The second case involved a woman in her late 60s who died after staying the hotel in July.
Dr David Kirrage, consultant with PHE West Midlands Health Protection Team, said:
“Firstly, my heartfelt condolences go out to those affected by this incident. On the discovery of the presence of Legionella at the hotel, the management implemented public health advice in order to minimise exposure to guests and staff. It closed the affected rooms, disinfected the water system and employed heating contractors to investigate the boilers and pipework.
“Isolated cases of Legionella infection are reported to us on a regular basis and investigated as a matter of routine. However, results from PHE laboratories on Monday 11 September 2017 confirmed that the strain of Legionella located in the hotel is indistinguishable from the samples taken from the two cases. Extensive work is now needed to overhaul and treat the plumbing in such an old building, so that guests can fully enjoy the facilities. The hotel has decided that with such a complex building it is easier and minimises risks to the public to close the hotel temporarily to conduct remedial works. Environmental health officers at Shropshire Council will continue to take water samples from the hotel during this time to test for the bacteria.”
Lee Chapman, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for health, adult social care and housing, said:
“I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families affected by this very unfortunate incident. The health and safety of our residents and visitors in Shropshire is a key priority and Shropshire Council will always strongly encourage employers to make health and safety improvements that protect their customers and staff.
“Our health protection team provides advice on health and safety in the workplace including the control of Legionella bacteria in a wide range of water systems. The teams has been working closely with the proprietor of the hotel and under the direction of Public Health England to investigate the incident and ensure the right measures are in place to resolve this issue.
“Businesses have a clear responsibility to ensure that customers, staff and other visitors are safe on their premises and protected from any health hazards. It is reassuring to know that the proprietor is taking the necessary steps and arrangement to do this.”
Call for urgent review
Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East and a practising nurse, is calling for Shropshire Council to hold an urgent scrutiny meeting to review the deadly outbreak. She says:
“This is a very rare event. The hotel has responded by closing for the time being. But we need to ensure that lessons are learnt and there is no repeat anywhere else in Shropshire.
“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the county. I desperately hope that no one else that stayed at the Feathers has been affected by this nasty pathogen.
“We need to understand why this occurred. We need to know that the right actions were taken after the presence of Legionella was discovered months ago in the hotel.
“The best way to deal with this is to call an immediate meeting of Shropshire Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee. We can then set out a workplan to ensure that we learn everything we need to learn about this tragic incident.
“We can’t deal with this behind closed doors. Shropshire Council should take the lead and build up public confidence that this is a one off event. To do any less would damage our county’s reputation as one of the best tourist destinations in the country.”
Following consultation with PHE, the hotel is writing to guests who stayed at the hotel in the last two weeks to advise them to make contact if they have experienced any symptoms of Legionnaires disease.
Legionnaires disease is a rare but potentially life threatening illness. Early symptoms include a ‘flu-like’ illness with muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, dry cough and fever which can then lead to pneumonia. As with any pneumonia, the patient can become very unwell. Diarrhoea and/or confusion may occur, as well as chest and breathing symptoms. It is effectively treated with a course of antibiotics. Legionnaires disease cannot be passed from person to person.
Legionella bacteria are widely distributed in the environment. They have been found in hot and cold water systems and in some forms of industrial and commercial water cooling systems. Infection can be spread through aerosols from such water sources.