450 workers screened for potentially deadly infection at Harland & Wolff

Looking across East Belfast towards the shipyard
Looking across East Belfast towards the shipyard

More than 450 workers at Harland & Wolff shipyard are being screened for a potentially deadly infection after it was detected in a number of employees.

According to the Public Health Agency (PHA), the pneumococcal disease can cause illnesses, including pneumonia and meningitis.

Four employees are thought to have become infected.

Davy Thompson, of the Unite union said more than 450 workers were being screened and offered immunisation on Saturday.

“Management has engaged with the Public Health Authority to coordinate their response to four workers being hospitalised with pneumococcal infection. Our thoughts are with these workers and their families and we are hopeful that they will make a swift recovery,” he said.

The union’s regional coordinating officer added: “The fact that four workers were hospitalised with this infectious disease in a short space of time in one area led to the Public Health Authority becoming involved. The rate of infection may reflect the confined working conditions in the docks.

“The steps being taken are proportionate and we are hopeful that they will prevent any further spread of this infection.

“We will continue to work to ensure that this situation is managed effectively.”

The PHA has said is working closely with the shipyard management and that hygiene advice has been given to employees.

“The disease is spread by close contact, particularly by coughing or sneezing but there is said to be no wider risk to the public.

The PHA said there was is risk to the wider public.