Wales

Rhymney mother 'lost fight with Legionnaires' disease'

Bev Morgan
Image caption Bev Morgan's death is directly linked to the Heads of the Valleys outbreak

The daughter of a 49-year-old woman who died of Legionnaires' disease says her mother fought the disease for two weeks.

Bev Morgan, from Rhymney, in Caerphilly county, died in hospital on Sunday in the outbreak in south Wales.

Her daughter Rebecca Williams said the mother of two had been suffering from pneumonia caused by Legionnaires'.

Meanwhile, a solicitor representing victims is calling for tighter regulations to help prevent outbreaks.

Two other people in south Wales have also died from the disease this month, but are not linked to the outbreak.

Ms Williams said she was told by the hospital that legionella had been found in her mother's test results.

"It got very bad and we were thinking the worst and then she started to improve," she said.

"They took her off sedation and she woke up and she was aware we were with her, nodding to us, holding our hands and everything.

"Then she started deteriorating again and she wasn't comfortable - this is over a two-week period.

"She had gone down and back and she had started deteriorating again. [They] sedated her and she didn't last much longer really."

Ms Wiliams said her mother's life had ended prematurely but "it didn't have to happen this way".

Philip Banks, of solicitors Irwin Mitchell, said there needed to be better regulation of cooling towers and other equipment which have been at the centre of the investigation.

"A system could be put in place, for example an MoT system where companies have to have a certification system in place [where] they are maintained, inspected, disinfected and cleaned," he said.

"That would be a step forward to stop this happening again.'

Image caption Map showing the areas, mostly in the valleys, where the investigation is concentrating

Victims have also spoken out about safety checks.

Joan Evans, 67, is recovering at home in Pontlottyn near Rhymney, Caerphilly county, having survived a disease that kills between 10 - 15% of its victims.

She said she had no idea how she got it and argued that it had taken an outbreak to reveal that someone somewhere probably had not been maintaining their equipment properly.

"It doesn't come out until something like this happens," she said.

"It should be checked on a regular basis. It's too late then, isn't it?"

Environmental health officers and the Health and Safety Executive are responsible for policing a system which relies on owners of premises to fulfil their responsibilities.

They must register cooling towers and ensure any equipment where the legionella bacteria can grow is properly maintained to prevent that.

But the search for the source has revealed that not all employers are doing this.

Meanwhile, Public Health Wales has defended its decision to delay alerting the public to the outbreak.

Doctors were told about the outbreak on 3 September but the authorities did not inform people until four days later.

Some GPs have raised concerns over the length of time taken.

However, Dr Gwen Lowe, a consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out the delay was necessary so the health protection team could accurately assess the situation.

She said: "The reason why we delayed the public announcement of the outbreak was to allow our clinical colleagues and our GP colleagues to have that information to enable them to act, to make sure we had all the relevant information that we needed.

"You can imagine that once you declare an area you're interested in, people's recall of where they have been actually becomes a bit muddied by the information that is in the public domain.

Outbreak area

"It's very helpful to get the true and accurate information from the people who have been ill before they are aware we are investigating the cluster in a certain area."

Three people have now died but only the death of Bev Morgan is linked to the outbreak.

A 70-year-old man and a woman, 64, from Pontypridd, also died of the disease last week.

That makes a total of 19 people with Legionnaires' identified as being linked to the outbreak.

No new cases have been reported since 10 September.

The outbreak area is the corridor 12km (7.5 miles) either side of the Heads of the Valleys road between Abergavenny in Monmouthshire and Llandarcy in Neath Port Talbot.

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