Intended for healthcare professionals


How legionnaires’ disease evacuated an asylum seekers’ boat

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 14 August 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p1876
  1. Mun-Keat Looi
  1. The BMJ

A political storm has broken out in the UK after asylum seekers held in temporary accommodation on the Bibby Stockholm barge at Portland Port in southern England were forced to evacuate. The reason was Legionella—the cause of legionnaires’ disease.

What is legionnaires’ disease?

The disease is a lung infection caused by the Legionella bacteria. The bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments such as lakes and streams,1 although legionnaires’ disease is usually not caught in open water such as ponds, rivers, or lakes. It’s also not usually a risk in the home and can’t be caught from drinking water or from other people.

Legionella becomes a health concern when it grows and spreads, often when trapped in human-made …

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