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August 7, 2012

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Call for public inquiry into Scottish Legionnaires’ disease outbreak

A leading scientist has called for a public inquiry into an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Edinburgh, which resulted in the deaths of three people and more than 100 individuals treated as confirmed, or suspected cases.

In June this year, as part of its investigation into the outbreak, the HSE served Improvement Notices on two companies in relation to cooling towers. All three notices have been complied with, and the HSE has stressed that the notices do not mean that the cooling towers have been identified as the source of the outbreak.

A third organisation was served with an Improvement Notice by Edinburgh City Council. This notice, too, is not an indication that the source has been identified.

Concerns over the safety inspection regime for facilities such as cooling towers have led the Scottish Labour Party to call for a public inquiry into the outbreak of the disease. The party’s demands were yesterday (7 August) backed by Professor Hugh Pennington, a microbiologist at the University of Aberdeen.

“Legionnaires’ disease is one of the nastiest and most lethal of infectious diseases in the UK, but it is utterly preventable,” said the professor. “So something went badly wrong in Edinburgh. A public inquiry would be the most effective way to establish the facts and to prevent yet more outbreaks.”€

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