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Your guide to Legionnaire's disease

Hotel room - legionnaires disease

Sun and relaxation go hand in hand with a holiday abroad and, naturally, two of the top reasons why most British holidaymakers look forward to enjoying soaring temperatures when they book their package holiday.

At the same time, a cool air conditioned room at your hotel or holiday resort provides a welcome relief when the heat gets too much.

However, a poorly maintained or faulty air-conditioning system can cause you to suffer more than unbearable, sleepless nights.

There is a real risk of a serious health hazard. In some cases, there could be an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease if the system has a problem, such as:

  • Inaccurately-set temperature
  • Insufficient circulation
  • Non-functioning pumps
  • Incorrect thermometer readings

The symptoms of a headache and high temperature may not be caused by “being out in the sun for too long” or “something you ate.” They may be the first sign of Legionnaire’s Disease, which can appear after just 2 - 3 days.

Your UK Package tour operator can be found liable for a breach in regulations, which directly caused your illness and it is always recommended to seek appropriate legal advice to ensure your case will be heard.

Your Legal Friend has 30 years experience and specialist knowledge in all aspects of international personal injury law. We provide you with all the expert guidance you will need to help you help you succeed in making your claim against a UK tour operator / cruise line.

Stats & Facts

88 from 284 cases (31 per cent) of Legionnaires’ disease reported were associated with travel abroad in 2013.          (Public Health England (PHE), 2014)

Top travel destinations and number of cases reported for Legionnaires' disease, which affected residents of England and Wales, 2013:

  • Spain   (15 cases)
  • Portugal (6)
  • USA     (10)
  • Turkey   (5)
  • France (7)
  • Cuba      (3)
  • Greece (7)
  • Malta     (3)
  • Italy     (6)
  • Cyprus   (2)          (Legionnaires’ disease in England and Wales - Public Health England 2013)

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe and potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by exposure to the Legionella bacteria, which live in natural and man-made water systems.

 A serious outbreak can lead to between 5 and 30 per cent of fatalities, and up to 50 per cent, if treatment is delayed.

Where is  Legionnaires’ disease found?

The disease is most commonly found in hotels, hospitals, restaurants and similar public buildings with ventilation systems or purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, Jacuzzi / hot tubs.

How do you catch Legionnaires’ disease?

The bacteria does not pass from person to person but instead, often travels through faulty air-conditioning units or hot water / plumbing systems.

The disease is caught by inhaling small droplets of water suspended in the air, which contain the Legionella bacteria.  

The risks of catching the disease greatly increase in high temperature environments and climates, which include many favourite holiday ‘hotspots’.

What causes Legionnaires’ disease?

A faulty air conditioning unit or hot water system where:

  • The temperature is set inaccurately
  • Circulation is insufficient
  • Pumps fail to properly function
  • Thermometers provide incorrect readings

When standing water used in some types of air conditioning units is not changed daily the Legionella bacteria can rapidly multiply in water temperatures of between 20-45C (68-113F). Impurities in the water such as rust, algae and limescale are used by the bacteria for food.

What are the symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease?

Initial symptoms usually include flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Mild headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • High temperature (fever), usually 38C (100.4F) or above
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Change of mental state, such as confusion

Once the bacteria begins to infect the lungs, symptoms of pneumonia may be experienced, such as:

  • Persistent dry cough – later includes phlegm or, sometimes blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains

How long does it take before symptoms start?

From two to 19 days, but usually between six to seven days from being infected to the start of symptoms (known as the ‘incubation’ period).

Holidaymakers most at risk are:.

  • People over 45 years of age
  • Smokers and heavy drinkers
  • People suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, diabetes, lung and heart disease
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system

Monitoring and detection

The hotel / resort should have a monitoring programme in place to include the routine sampling and testing for the presence of bacteria, such as Legionella. The detection of Legionella bacteria requires  laboratory analysis as well as routine monitoring.

Making a claim – what you need to know

If you fall ill with Legionnaire’s Disease while on a package holiday...

Under the Package Travel Regulations 1992,  your UK Package tour operator:

Has a responsibility for ensuring that your holiday is provided to a reasonable standard.

Is liable to pay compensation if you or a member of your family were ill and suffered Legionnaire’s Disease because the  hotel resort where you were staying failed to take reasonable care.

Is responsible for making sure its suppliers perform their obligations properly.

If you are on a package holiday, and your tour operator/hotel is found to be in breach of the regulations you are entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Building your case and making a claim requires the in-depth knowledge of a specialist solicitor.

Your Legal Friend has 30 years experience and knowledge in all aspects of international personal injury law.

We specialise in helping all those who have suffered from a holiday accident while onboard a cruise ship through no fault of their own and wish to claim compensation against a UK tour operator / cruise line.

We can help you to claim back any additional expenses you have suffered as a result of your accident, such as:

  • Any medical expenses you had to meet whilst on holiday
  • Time taken off work on your return from holiday
  • Missing out on any holiday activities, which your injury prevents you from participating in. 

Throughout your claim, Your Legal Friend will help you every step of the way.

  • Specialist team of occupational illness solicitors
  • A wealth of knowledge and expertise
  • Advice, support and guidance throughout your claim
  • No upfront fees or payments
  • Over 30 years of experience in personal injury compensation

Talk to us today

For an informal, confidential chat with one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors... Call us now on 0808 301 7535 (calls free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.