• MySTV

Two in intensive care after legionella outbreak linked to compost

Four people have been treated in hospital in Edinburgh after contracting legionella longbeachae, a disease linked to gardening compost.

Compost in hands, for gardening or Legionella longbeachae story Creative commons quality image

Two gardeners are fighting for their lives in intensive care after four people were taken to hospital suffering from a strain of legionella.

NHS Lothian is currently investigating four cases of legionella longbeachae linked to gardening compost.

Two patients are currently being treated in intensive care in hospital while the other two have been discharged from hospital.

The four cases, who are all described as keen gardeners, in Lothian are aged between 62 and 84.

Dr Richard Othieno, consultant in public health and chair of the incident management team at NHS Lothian said: “This type of legionella is quite rare in that unlike other strains it has never been identified in man-made water systems, like cooling towers.

“We are working with experts to trace the source of the infection and samples of the compost have been sent for testing.

“We know that each of the four cases are keen gardeners and had purchased different products containing compost prior to acquiring the infection.

“Gardening is a healthy hobby but there are risks and it is important that people take some simple precautions when working in their garden or with gardening products.

“I would like to add further reassurance that the risk to the wider public is low.”

The longbeachae strain of legionella is thought to have arrived in Scotland in the last five years. No other part of the UK has so far been affected.

The bacterium is well known in Australia and New Zealand, where bags of potting compost carry warning labels. Most of those who take ill are aged over 50.

The health board said there was no link between the current cases and the outbreak which killed four people in the south-west of the capital last year.

Almost 100 people were infected during the outbreak, which was thought to have been linked to cooling towers in Edinburgh but it was later discovered this was not the case.

Legionella bacteria causes Legionnaires' disease and Pontiac fever, which are contracted by inhaling infected moisture. Symptoms include headaches, diarrhoea or a dry cough, followed by pneumonia.

Most people recover from the disease after they are given antibiotics but those with underlying medical problems are more vulnerable to the effects.

The exact way in which the infection is passed from compost to people is not currently known but is assumed to be through breathing in very small dust particles or drops of contaminated water. It is not transmitted from person to person.

NHS Lothian and Borders has issued information to the public on garden compost.

They advise people to:

read and follow any manufacturers’ instructions on the bag;

open any compost or potting mix bags carefully using a blade;

wear gloves when handling compost; keep the door open in greenhouses or sheds when potting-up plants or filling hanging baskets;

wear a mask if the air is dusty, particularly indoors;

wash hands immediately after using compost.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.