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01 September 2014

Briton dies ofLegionnaires’disease afterMalta holiday

 - Sunday, 26 January 2014, 12:00

A 59-year-old man from Billington, Lancashire died earlier this month from Legionnaires’ disease after having been on a week-long holiday in Malta last November.

According to various press reports from Lancashire, Steve Whitehead and his wife had visited Malta last November but shortly after arriving home, Mr Whitehead fell ill.

The Lancashire Telegraph quotes the victim’s wife as saying: “He started to feel ill on the Wednesday, and on the Sunday he collapsed and went downhill fast.”

After being initially treated in Royal Blackburn Hospital's intensive care unit, Mr Whitehead was taken to Wythenshaw Hospital. But despite the best efforts of doctors, who used specialist machinery in a bid to save Mr Whitehead’s life, he died on 6 January, a month before his 60th birthday.

It is believed that Mr Whitehead contracted Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia caused by bacteria, while abroad.

The newspaper quotes senior environmental health officer for Ribble Valley Council Eamonn Roberts as having stated that “a full, detailed investigation” of Mr Whitehead’s illness had been carried out, “to pinpoint where he acquired the infection”.

Mr Roberts added: “We do not believe he became infected locally.”

Mrs Whitehead explained: “The environmental person came here and we spoke in great detail about where we had been and what we had done.

“We presumed the disease came from abroad. I have a phone number to ring, but because of the funeral and everything, I have not done it yet. I would like to know what happened, and if anything will come from this.”

Mrs Whitehead said she would be looking for answers.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia, caused by the bacteria called legionella, which can also cause a mild, flu-like illness called Pontiac fever. This is not usually serious and does not lead to pneumonia.

11 comments

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Max Santorelli says:
27 January 2014 07:21

How can one be so sure that he caught the disease from Malta?  Couldn't he have caught it before coming to Malta?

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Isabel Cleland says:
26 January 2014 19:35

I am very interested as to where Mr Steve Whitehead stayed while he s in Malta. Although I agree that the bacteria took a long time to affect him,  an still very interested.
To let you understand, I am a frequent visitor to Malta, but last May, I stayed at a different hotel. The day island, I felt unwell, flu like symptoms. I went to work Monday through Thursday, but as I was off on the Friday, made an appointment with my GP. Turned out I had legionnaires disease. I spent 2 weeks in hospital and it almost cost me my life.
I know the hotel I stayed in was to blame, but had no luck. At the same time  was there, other guests were complaining of food poisoning.

Post Reply

Joe Martinelli says:
27 January 2014 00:35

OK Isabel. Let's dissect the information.
I can't make out what you mean exactly by "The day island, I felt unwell, flu like symptoms". Pl explain.
"I went to work Monday through Thursday, but as I was off on the Friday.." I presume you mean when you went back home?
How long did you stay at the hotel in Malta?
Did you report the hotel to health authorities, or the Tourist Ministry?
Have your health authorities followed up? In some countries such diseases are not taken lightly and a case like yours and Mr. Whitehead, they follow to the last detail.
It is also worth noting that the island receives a million and a half tourists a year and most hotels are three to five star and to my knowledge no significant outbreaks have occurred in years, if ever!
Of course there are hellholes, like there are elsewhere and a bit of prudence should have compelled you to get out of there if the conditions were as you perceived them.
To complain after you're gone back, serves little purpose except to give a hotel and the island a bad name especially if neither was the cause of your illness. You must know that there are famous and popular resorts where GPs advise their patients to get immunized for a variety of diseases including hepatitis A & B and to never drink water from a tap or even ask for ice-cubes with any alcoholic drinks!

Post Reply

Isabel Cleland says:
27 January 2014 14:57

Oh, and yes, the disease was reported to health standards in Edinburgh, I also spoke with the hotel manager and got nothing but verbal abuse and I reported it to the Maltese health officials and heard nothing.


Post Reply

Joe Martinelli says:
28 January 2014 13:12

Thank you. You seem to have done all you were expected to do. Now let's hope that authorities in Edinburgh will follow up with much diligence and if they confirm the source remedial action is taken here without delay.
Too bad that laws supposedly aimed at protecting the victim often end up protecting the lawbreaker, otherwise naming and shaming would be the thing to do in this instance provided you have definite proof in hand.

Post Reply

John Fenton says:
18 July 2014 23:21

Isabel.

Please will you contact me >[email protected]<

I am trying to gain information on behalf of Mrs Whitehead the widow of the deceased.

Kind regards

John Fenton

Post Reply

Joe Martinelli says:
26 January 2014 14:25

The Malta connection is most unfortunate.
Rarely does Legionnaires' disease strike one person since common causes include infected air-conditioning systems in large complexes such as hotels in which case more than one individual are infected.
Compounding the difficulty in isolating the source is that smokers, alcohol dependent individuals and those over 50 are more susceptible to contracting the disease.
"... had visited Malta last November but shortly after arriving home, Mr Whitehead fell ill... he died on 6 January". Fairly broad statements with much missing detail in between dates. Symptoms usually show between 2 and 10 days after initial infection and yet the report does not indicate the date Mr Whitehead left Malta and how 'shortly after' the symptoms appeared.
No doubt the investigation of the source should be concluded as soon as possible and if Malta is ruled not to be the source, then the result should be given as much publicity as this unfortunate story has been given. If, on the other hand Malta is deemed to be the source, then immediate steps should be taken to correct the source which has caused this fatality and equally publicized.
Not following the story may cause unnecessary concern to people intending to spend their vacation in Malta, especially coming from our primary market.


Post Reply

Isabel Cleland says:
26 January 2014 20:30

Hi Joe

I understand what you are saying, , be honest, some rooms in aparthotels for instance are better than others. Some get updated, items replaced etc where others do not. The one I stayed at the shower head was perished and the wouldn't replace it. Many many more problems with the place, far to numerous to mention.
I for instance (being over 50) returned home with legionnaires, my daughter being 20yrs my junior didn't, but was unwell the whole week we were there.

Post Reply

James Alexander Tyrrell says:
27 January 2014 16:12

Shower heads are a typical source of legionnaires.

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Joe Mallia says:
26 January 2014 14:16

One should see which hotel he was living in. This is a common disease contracted from water found in air conditioning units and showers

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James Alexander Tyrrell says:
26 January 2014 12:41

Where were they staying during their visit to Malta because it is important that things like shower heads are inspected immediately in case this happens again.

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