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One dead in Legionnaires' outbreak

A woman has died of a suspected Legionnaires' disease infection with 11 other cases already confirmed, public health chiefs have said.

An investigation is under way in South Wales to find the source of the outbreak.

The 64-year-old woman, who has not been named, died on Monday and is an unconfirmed case of the disease.

"Public Health Wales (PHW), in collaboration with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and environmental health officers from seven South Wales local authorities, is investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease clustered around the Heads of the Valleys corridor," a PHW spokesman said.

"As of 7 September 2010, 11 cases had been identified as being linked to the outbreak and all required hospital treatment. A further three possible cases are under investigation.

"One of the possible cases under investigation, a 64-year-old female, died in hospital on 6 September.

"Investigations into the possible source of this outbreak are ongoing. Information has been circulated to GPs in the area advising of the steps to be taken if patients have symptoms."

Legionella bacterium has the potential to cause Legionnaires' disease which begins with flu-like symptoms and can lead to pneumonia. Most cases are sporadic and it generally occurs in adults.

Anyone who is concerned about their health should contact their GP.

Gwen Lowe, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said: "Legionnaires' disease is a rare but potentially life-threatening illness. Most of the cases of Legionnaires' disease that are notified to us are isolated cases, but outbreaks can occur."

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