ARRAS, France, Jan 12 (AFP) – An 87-year-old woman has died in northern France from Legionnaires’ disease, bringing the toll to nine dead and 60 others sick since an outbreak began in late November, regional officials said Monday.
But Cyrille Schott, the prefect for the Pas-de-Calais department, insisted the new cases did not represent a new wave of Legionnaires’ infections, saying the most recent cases “all stem from the first and second waves.”
French officials have called the outbreak in the area around the town of Lens one of the most serious ever seen in France.
The cooling tower at the Noroxo petrochemicals plant in nearby Harnes was identified as the primary source of contamination, but officials have singled out a possible second source in Henin-Beaumont to the east.
The Noroxo plant has been closed twice since the start of the outbreak. Noroxo is part of the Exxon Mobil group, the world’s biggest oil company.
Legionnaires’ disease – first discovered at an American Legion convention in the United States in July 1976, where 29 people died – causes high fever, dry cough, lung congestion and subsequent pneumonia.
It is commonly spread through contaminated air conditioners and ventilators and is treated with antibiotics.
Of the 69 people who have contracted Legionnaires’ disease in France, nine have died, 20 are still in hospital and 40 others have returned home.
Subject: France news