Preventing Legionnaire’s Disease To Safeguard Your Health

Safeguarding your health preventing legionnaires disease

Posted on 8th Mar, 2017 | By Lorretta Tatham

Caused by the Legionella pneumophilia bacteria, Legionnaires disease poses a substantial and potentially fatal health risk. Though often survivable, the threats it poses to tradesmen and public alike are not to be underestimated. Thankfully, it’s reasonably easy to guard against the possibility of this illness by taking proper precautions with water systems.

What Is Legionella?

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Legionella is the collective name for over 50 known species of bacteria, which are naturally occurring in soil and water environments – usually in harmlessly low numbers. However, when they’re found in water supplies of buildings such as hotels, hospitals and office blocks, they can potentially pose a health risk. Warm water (between 20C and 45C) is a particularly favourable environment for them to multiply, and they especially flourish in systems with little or no water movement, as stagnant water provides an excellent breeding ground. They can infect the human body through inhalation of contaminated water droplets, leading to a dangerous illness known as Legionnaires Disease; named after the American Legion, who were the first unfortunate group to contract the infection back in 1976.

Legionnaire’s Disease

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Legionnaires Disease is, in essence, a respiratory illness and a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by inhalation of the Legionella bacteria. It typically affects men more frequently than women, although other factors can affect the likelihood of infection; such as whether the person concerned is over 45, is a smoker or heavy drinker, has diabetes or a pre-existing lung or heart disease, or an otherwise impaired immune system. The symptoms for Legionnaire’s Disease include mild headaches, muscle pain, tiredness or fluctuating temperature, and disorientation. Other flu-like symptoms include shortness of breath, heavy coughing and chest pains.

There are between 200 and 300 reported cases of Legionnaires Disease each year in the UK, although a substantial amount of these cases are thought to have been originally contracted abroad. There is no vaccine, but the good news is that the disease is not contagious, and primarily treated with antibiotics. Even better, about 90% of people with Legionnaires disease make a full recovery after these antibiotics. However, even one person dying from a preventable disease is one too many, and that’s why it’s important to take steps to preclude any outbreaks.

Preventing The Spread Of Harmful Legionella

As legionella flourishes in warm water such as those in hot water tanks, heaters and cooling towers (along with less essential systems like decorative fountains), thorough maintenance of water treatment systems is a crucial element in effectively preventing outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease. Part of this involves dealing with the impurities that the bacteria use for sustenance, such as rust, limescale and algae. Infrequently used outlets should be flushed out, while cold water storage tanks should be cleaned periodically and hot water cylinders drained to check for debris or signs of corrosion.

At Browns Safety Services, we offer a series of legionella awareness training courses specifically aimed at preventing outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease and similar health risks. Click here to make a course enquiry, or enquire on-site about offsite training. In the meantime if you have any questions you can call us on 01282 615517. We’re here to help!

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