HEALTH experts investigating a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak at a South Tyneside factory have found the potentially fatal bug in two cooling towers on site - as a fifth person is confirmed to have contracted the illness.
Four workers at Faltec Europe Limited and a resident whose home overlooks the factory at Boldon Business Park have contracted the disease since last October - with four of the cases over the last two months.
The company closed down all cooling towers at their base yesterday, replacing them with sealed water chiller units which do not present a risk of spreading the infection.
Dr Tricia Cresswell of the North East PHE Centre said: ‘The incident control team was concerned to hear that legionella bacteria have been identified in the two cooling towers.
“Closing down all the cooling towers removes any risk from that source.
‘Despite this finding, due to the incubation period of Legionnaires’ disease, all cases identified so far are likely to have been acquired before control measures were first put in place at the factory during the weekend of May 17.
‘The company is continuing to co-operate fully with the investigation.
“On the advice of the Health and Safety Executive, they are continuing to carry out a range of additional actions to treat and disinfect any other possible sources of the infection.
Chris Gillies, Principal Inspector from the Health and Safety Executive said: ‘Following the enforcement notice served last week, we have continued to monitor the site closely.”
Amanda Healy, Director of Public Health for South Tyneside Council said: ‘Our priority continues to be to protect the health of local residents and factory workers. I have been assured that the shutting down of the cooling towers definitively removes any risk from that source.”