UPDATE: Another case of Legionnaires' Disease in Stoke-on-Trent reported as Fenton superstore hot tub linked to killer bug
AN OUTBREAK of Legionnaires' Disease which has killed one patient and put 18 in hospital has been linked to a hot tub on display at a discount warehouse.
The spa pool being offered for sale at the JTF Mega Discount Warehouse, off King Street, Fenton, has been identified by health experts as the 'probable source' of the menace.
The spa was shut down last Tuesday – although the rest of the store has remained open.
Samples taken from the hot tub have revealed a strain of Legionnaires' Disease never seen before anywhere in the world.
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Health Protection Agency (HPA) laboratories in London linked the hot tub to the bug.
Seventeen of the 18 sufferers had visited the warehouse, on the Diamond Park retail estate, in the fortnight before they came down with symptoms.
Experts visited the premises as a precaution last week after finding the first two victims had been there.
But JTF was only revealed as a probable source at a press conference yesterday after the results of the tests were returned.
The bug cannot be passed from person to person – so shoppers would have been exposed to the disease simply by walking past the tub and breathing in microscopic droplets of water emitted from it.
HPA West Midlands regional director Dr Sue Ibbotson said: "We have evidence of the probable source from DNA fingerprinting of samples from the hot tub and the patients being affected by the same previously unseen strain.
"Added to that, spa pools are known to be an effective mechanism for spreading legionalla infection."
Stoke-on-Trent's public health director Professor Zafar Iqbal, below, said: "It's good news we have a probable source, especially as we know it has been dealt with through precautionary measures last week."
Two more cases of Legionnaires' Disease in Stoke-on-Trent's biggest outbreak were confirmed yesterday.
Nine are still being treated at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, while a tenth is at a hospital in Leicester.
Their conditions were last night described as 'stable and improving'.
The sufferers are aged between their 40s and 70s. Most are men living in the southern areas of Stoke-on-Trent.
The identity of the dead patient has not been revealed.
But it has emerged even more cases could still come to light because it can take up to two weeks for infected people to fall ill.
Anyone who visited the store and now feels ill is being urged to visit their GP.
Symptoms include aching muscles, fever, tiredness, headaches and a dry cough.
It has not been disclosed whether the company will be prosecuted.
Environmental health specialists, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Stoke-on-Trent City Council are continuing to take samples from across the city as part of their precautionary checks on whether there is another source.
A HSE spokesman said: "We continue to inspect premises where we are the enforcing authority and will continue to do so until we have eliminated those sites from our investigations and are sufficiently assured there are no other possible sources."
Anyone feeling unwell should visit their doctor or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.
UPDATE AT 5PM: Another case of Legionnaires' Disease has been reported by the Health Protection Agency, bringing the total number of known cases since the start of the outbreak to 19.