Maria Ramos, director-general of public health.


The Balearic director for public health, Maria Ramos, yesterday told the Bulletin that the outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in Palmanova at the end of last month and the beginning of this month is being dealt with and that the situation is contained. Ramos said that the first report her department received of a case was on 5 October and that immediate action was taken.

"In cooperation with the local police, Calvia town hall and obviously the various health authorities, we immediately inspected the hotel in which the first patient was staying and ordered that a number of improvements and checks be made while samples were taken from the scene.

"Yesterday, one more case was reported in the UK, but out of the 13 Britons who caught the disease, all bar five have either made a full recovery or are on the road to good health. Regarding the remaining five, we have asked the British authorities in Madrid for an update on their condition as we continue to monitor all of the 19 people initially affected. The Spanish hotel worker has been discharged from hospital after having been given the all-clear along with another British visitor who was hospitalised on the island.

"What I can say is that samples have been taken from each of the seven affected hotels and other areas and are being checked against samples taken from the patients in order to see if they match and to find out what kind of strain of legionella they caught.

"We managed to pinpoint the hotels in the resort and formed a grid within which we have been concentrating our investigation, which is very much still ongoing until we get to the bottom of the outbreak and locate exactly where it began. Some of the hotels have already closed for the winter. Those which have not have been inspected and been ordered to check their sanitation systems along with water sprinklers in the gardens, etc.

"The showers on the beach near the hotels have been closed down as have public fountains. We have also begun inspecting restaurants in the area which, although they may now be closed, were open at the time and were using mist air-conditioning systems on their terraces. One case has been traced to a block of apartments above a restaurant, so we have taken samples from there and all of the evidence is being tested and examined by a specialist laboratory in Madrid.

"Another thing I can confirm is that the outbreak was at the end of last month, it is not recent and that it is under control. Obviously, due to the time the disease takes to incubate, we did not learn about the true extent of the outbreak until last week when two to three patients were being reported a day. However, no new cases were reported to us on Thursday and just the one was confirmed yesterday, so the rate of infection has drastically slowed down.

"There is no need for the general public or holidaymakers to be alarmed. They can be calm and relaxed in the knowledge that the outbreak is over and we have the situation under control."

Contrary to claims by the president of the Palmanova-Magalluf hoteliers association, Sebastian Darder, that Abta had issued an official communiqué to tour operators recommending that they do not send British holidaymakers to Palmanova, the association told the Bulletin yesterday that it had taken no such action.

Sean Tipton, head of public relations, said that all it had done was to "follow standard procedure" in a case like this. "In no way would we order a stop to sales, and we certainly have not advised Britons to avoid Palmanova. If there have been cancellations, that’s probably because of all the press coverage it has received in the UK. All we have done, in accordance with Public Health England, is advise the tour operators about the situation so that they can contact their clients who are due to stay in any of the suspect hotels and offer them alternative accommodation in the resort, should they wish. It’s just normal, good practice on behalf of the industry."