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Infected cruise ship undergoes clean-up; Passengers face delay as water supply flushed.

A clean-up operation to disinfect the water supply system on a cruise ship at the centre of a suspected Legionnaire's Disease outbreak was under way yesterday.

A team of health experts boarded the SS Edinburgh Castle moments after she docked in Greenock on the Firth of Clyde early yesterday morning.

The 800 passengers on board disembarked as the team started the disinfection process which involves chlorinating the water tanks and pipes.

The tanks and pipes will be totally flushed with a solution of chlorine dioxide which must remain in contact with all parts of the system for at least four hours. The system will then be flushed and treatment repeated.

The alarm was raised on board the ship when it was discovered that two former passengers were treated for the illness. One of them travelled on the ship in April, the other in June. Neither has yet been identified.

The owners of the ship, Castle Cruising and its independent environmental consultants, say they believe these measures to be unnecessary because the operation is a virtual repetition of procedures completed earlier this week.

However they are willing to allow them in order to provide additional reassurance for Inverclyde Council's Environmental Services Department and future passengers.

The 900 passengers booked to sail today on board the Edinburgh Castle have been alerted to the delay by Direct Cruises, which leases the ship from Castle Cruising. Those who decide to cancel will be offered compensation of between pounds 300 and pounds 500 per person.

An Inverclyde Council spokesman said the vessel will set sail once the rigorous treatment process is completed successfully.

A spokesman for Direct Cruises said tests for the legionnella organism in the Edinburgh Castle's water supply were done in Liverpool, where the ship was docked, earlier this month.

The tests took place after the second case of Legionnaire's Disease had been reported and a possible common link with the ship identified.

Mr Rick Green, operations manager of Direct Cruises, said: "The tests were done on June 15, but there were technical difficulties so, on June 18, the local health authority asked Inverclyde Council to do more checks to clarify the matter when the ship reached Greenock, its next port of call, on Sunday June 21."

These tests were carried out when the ship docked prior to leaving on a cruise bound for Norway.

When these results were returned from Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, to Inverclyde Council last Wednesday, they showed a high concentration of legionnella in some parts of the water system.

The ship's captain was informed of this and while most of the passengers were on day trips in Norway on Thursday, the water on board was heated to the point where 95 per cent of the legionnella present would have been killed. Bottled water was made available to each of the passengers.

Plans were then drawn up by Inverclyde Council's incident control group to oversee the disinfection of the entire water system on the ship's return to Greenock yesterday.
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Author:Hunter, Paul
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 29, 1998
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