A BOURNEMOUTH spa has been shut down after a confirmed outbreak of the potentially fatal Legionella infection.

Fourteen people who visited Healax Salt Caves and Spa, Wonderholme Parade, Kinson, have developed the bacterial infections, which can lead to Legionnaires' disease

Public Health England (PHE), which is working with BCP Council's environmental health officers, Public Health Dorset and local NHS organisations, say immediate action was taken to close the premises and to ensure no further risk to the public.

PHE says nine people have been treated in hospital and are now recovering at home.

A further 39 people who visited the spa also reported symptoms of infection, but have not had Legionella confirmed by laboratory tests.

Dr Fiona Neely, outbreak control team lead and consultant in health protection at PHE South West, said: "We understand there will be concern among people who visited Healax Salt Caves and Spa, whether or not they have become ill, and we would like to reassure those affected that all immediate public health action has been taken.

"Thankfully, in all cases of illness that have been reported to PHE to date, those affected are now recovering from their illnesses."

Clients who are understood to have visited the spa between June 1-18, when health experts believe the risk of infection to have occurred, have been contacted by PHE with advice.

This information has also been shared with local residents and businesses adjacent to the spa, on a precautionary basis.

Paul Wetton, a project manager from Bournemouth, aged 42, who visited the business on June 16 with his wife, Angela, told the Daily Echo: "The conditions in the spa were terrible and rather than improve our health we both developed chest infections and I became very ill.

"I should have known something was wrong when I saw it was next to an off-licence and a chippy.

"When you walked in there was this strong smell, it smelt of urine and damp."

He said he'd never been in a salt spa before and thought it must be what they smell like, as it was a sea water hot tub.

And only stayed in the hot tub for half an hour then left "as it wasn't enjoyable."

The couple then spent around an hour in the lounge area before heading home.

"The following night I got a fever and my breathing went bad, " said Mr Wetton. "I ended up having two or three days off work and my wife had similar symptoms but not as bad."

Paul has since been given the all clear for Legionnaires' disease but diagnosed with Pontiac fever, which is a milder flu-like illness caused by Legionella bacteria.

Speaking to the Daily Echo yesterday, he said: "I'm still feeling rough and I'm going on antibiotics.

"What is worrying is that they have a facebook page and if you go on there they have not put any warning on.

"When we were at the spa there was a family of four with two little kiddies."

When the Echo visited the spa there were only workmen, wearing ventilator masks, working out back.

However, a notice of repossession posted on the door of the property listed Michaela Handrea as the former lessee.

This notice also warned that any person now entering the premises will be deemed as trespassing and dealt with in accordance with the law.

Meanwhile, a message on the Healax Salt Caves facebook page stated: "Dear customers, we do apologise for any inconvenience caused. We are closed and not taking bookings until further notice.

"If you have a voucher you may opt: to write us for an extension of your voucher, or to ask for a refund the company you purchased the voucher from.

"Thank you for your understanding

"Wish you all the best."

Legionella, the species of bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' disease and Pontiac fever, are widely distributed in the environment and can live in all types of water systems including natural sources, such as rivers and streams.

It can also survive in inadequately maintained artificial water sources, such as spa pools.

Dr Neely said: "PHE and local partner agencies, including the business owner, acted quickly to ensure that the risk of any further exposure to Legionella infection was controlled.

"Our priority has been to send information to all clients to seek appropriate medical advice if they are concerned about their health and to get in contact with the Health Protection Team.

"There are no ongoing risks to health for the wider population in relation to this incident."