Two patients at a hospital in Glasgow are dead after contracting a deadly fungal infection linked to pigeon droppings at a non-public room.
The patients are believed to have contracted the infection at Queen Elizabeth University hospital in Glasgow after inhaling the cryptococcus fungus, which is typically found in soil and pigeon poop.
Cryptococcus infection in humans may happen after an individual breathes in the microscopic fungi. Infection, however, rarely occurs and most of the people who are exposed to the fungus do not get sick from it.
For those who get sick, however, the infection can be fatal albeit it can be treated with antifungal drugs.
Hugh Pennington, from Aberdeen University, said people with weak immune systems are particularly at risk.
"When it gets into the blood stream a lot of people have fairly straightforward infections and it settles in the lungs but the big problem with this is that it can cause meningitis and, as we know, meningitis can be a very serious infection," Pennington said.
The NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), which runs the hospital, said the likely source of the pigeon droppings was a non-public room at the hospital that contains machinery. The room has now been cleaned.
Control measures have also been implemented to prevent further infection. The NHSGGC said patients vulnerable to the infection already received medication to protect them against the airborne infection. Specific groups of patients were also moved within the hospital due to their condition and treatment.
Air filter units were likewise installed in some parts of the hospital as an added precaution.
Teresa Inkster, NHSGGC lead consultant for infection control said there have been no additional cases of infection after control measures were put in place.
"In the meantime we are continuing to monitor the air quality and these results are being analysed," Inkster said
An investigation is already underway. Health secretary Jeane Freeman is set to meet senior NHS officials and clinical staff to discuss the incident and seek reassurance for patients at the hospital.