A FIFTH case of Legionnaires disease linked to gardening compost has been identified by NHS Tayside, a week after a major scare in the Edinburgh area.
Two patients are continuing to be treated in intensive care after falling ill with Legionella longbeachae in the Lothians last week, while two other people have been treated and released from hospital.
A new case in the NHS Tayside area has now been confirmed and the patient is being treated at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
The original four people affected are keen gardeners between the ages of 62 and 84.
It is not known exactly how the infection is passed from compost to people but health experts assume it is through breathing in very small dust particles or drops of contaminated water. The infection is not transmitted from person to person.
A meeting was held today between Health Protection Scotland (HPS), NHS Lothian and Edinburgh Council to update on the ongoing investigation.
Medics said no common brand or retailer of compost has been identified.
Dr Martin Donaghy, HPS medical director, said: “Following the identification of five cases of an unusual form of legionnaires’ disease in Lothian and Tayside, Health Protection Scotland is co-ordinating an incident management team to investigate this issue.
“It is believed that the four cases from NHS Lothian and the one case from NHS Tayside have arisen from the Legionella longbeachae strain found in compost and potting materials. This is an uncommon but recognised international phenomenon.”
The symptoms of Legionella longbeachae include headaches, diarrhoea or a dry cough followed by pneumonia.
Most people recover after treatment with antibiotics but those with underlying medical problems are more vulnerable, the health board said.
Doctors said the risks are low but advised gardeners to maintain good hygiene and to wear gloves or a mask if working in dusty conditions.
They also advised that people should open any compost or potting mix bags carefully in well ventilated areas.