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Corfu holiday disease alert

- by Liz Waugh

Corfu holiday disease alert.

UK tourists on holiday in Corfu have been warned to take extra care after a number of cases of Legionnaires' disease has come to light.

Health workers say they know of nine cases of the disease found in holiday visitors to Corfu in recent months.

They say that, although patients all have a history of recent travel to Corfu, a UK source for the infection cannot be ruled out.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has now launched an investigation along with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and Greek public health authorities to establish the source.

The HPA advises people going on holiday to Corfu not to cancel holiday plans. But it warns them to be aware of signs and symptoms of Legionnaires' disease.

Although rare in the UK Legionnaires' disease, which is caused by the legionella bacterium, can lead to severe pneumonia and to complications that may be fatal.

The bacterium is often spread through contaminated water droplets in cooling systems, shower heads, and taps but cannot be spread from person to person.

Symptoms can start between two and 14 days after exposure and often begin with a flu-like illness. Early treatment with antibiotics is important, especially for the elderly.

An HPA spokesman said: "We are concerned that UK residents travelling to Corfu should be aware of this potential risk, however we are not suggesting that people change their holiday plans.

"Legionnaires' disease is very rare so the risk is low. We are continuing our investigations so that we can provide the best advice for travellers and minimise the risk of further cases."