Man tells of brush with killer disease

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012
David Duthie
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ

HOSPITAL PASS: David Duthie is warning Cantabrians to be wary of legionnaires’ disease after he was struck down with the potentially lethal illness.

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A burning fever, non-stop coughing and almost a week of suffering in hospital means David Duthie will take more care in his Kaikoura garden.

He is one of 12 people hit by the potentially deadly legionnaires' disease in Canterbury in the past two weeks. One person died.

Duthie, 43, was yesterday discharged from Christchurch Hospital after a six-day stay.

Eleven cases were caused by exposure to harmful bacteria while using compost or potting mix.

One case was caused by bacteria in a cooling system, Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey said.

Symptoms include coughing, fever, chills, shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting, headaches and diarrhoea.

When Duthie was planting seeds in his garden, he "didn't even think about legionnaires' disease".

"[It's] something I've heard of but it was one of those things I never thought would affect me," Duthie said.

Even though he was gardening about two weeks ago, he only started to "feel rotten" last Tuesday.

"I never get sick and I've never been to hospital before and I just didn't know what was wrong with me."

Duthie visited his GP who told him to go to Christchurch Hospital. He said his sister, a nurse, suggested he could have legionnaires' disease, so he told hospital staff he had been in the garden.

"Having 40-degree temperatures and coughing non-stop is not fun . . . in future I'll definitely be wearing a mask, making sure bags of potting mix or whatever are kept damp and being careful when I open it."

He said too many people did "the typically Kiwi thing".

"They ignore the warnings, grab the pocket knife and rip into the bag . . . I'll be telling everyone I know to be more careful."

He said while a week-long hospital stay cost thousands of dollars, a simple protective mask cost "next to nothing".

Last year there were 61 cases recorded in Canterbury and three deaths.

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