Legionnaires’ scare at Hitchin Rugby Club

FEARS that a clubhouse had been contaminated with Legionnaires’ disease have forced the council to seal off the building’s showers for testing after a contractor was taken ill.

The man, who was working for North Herts District Council, was admitted to hospital with suspected Legionnaires’ on September 22 and because he was contracted to work at Hitchin Rugby Club, whose facilities are part-owned by NHDC, the council immediately closed the showers at the King George V Pavilion.

Councillor Bernard Lovewell, portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, said: “Our thoughts are with this gentleman and his family and whilst the early indications are that this was not contracted at one of our sites, I would like to assure residents that we have taken all possible precautionary steps to ensure that there is no further risk to public health while we wait for confirmation of the results.”

Samples have been taken so the site can be tested for infection and the council have been advised that initial indications suggest the results to be negative.

However conclusive results are not available as the full testing process takes between 10-14 days and the full results will not be known until Friday.

The Health Protection Agency have confirmed that they have been investigating the site and that a man is being treated in hospital who is suspected of having Legionnaires’.

Dr Marian McEvoy, director of the Health Protection Unit said: “Our local team of doctors and nurses are working closely with North Hertfordshire District Council Environmental Health Officers to investigate possible sources of infection.”

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“The disease can affect people of all ages but it mainly affects those aged over 50 and tends to affect men more than women. When diagnosed early, Legionnaires’ disease can be treated with antibiotics.

“Patients with very low natural immunity, such as people having chemotherapy treatment for cancer, can be more susceptible to infections like Legionnaires’ disease.”

NHDC have been advised that the normal incubation period for the illness is two weeks and can confirm that the contractor was not been working at any other council premises during the period before he became ill.

The chairman of Hitchin Rugby Club, Richard Stidolph, is confident that the club will get the all clear and has called the incident a “storm in a tea cup”.

Mr Stidolph said: “Well firstly there is no Legionnaires’ they were just testing a few showers.

“We have the preliminary results in and nothing has grown, we should be operational soon.”

“It’s a storm in a tea cup.”

Hitchin Rugby Club’s second and third teams are both scheduled to play at home this weekend.