A natural, common type of bacteria found in freshwater environments, Legionella can be a potentially serious health concern in the event it grows and spreads across man-made water systems such as your showerhead, taps, hot water tanks or heaters. Inhalation or absorption of the bacteria could lead to the development of Legionnaires disease, an often fatal form of pneumonia.
Caused primarily through the inhalation of small water droplets contaminated with the Legionella bacteria, Legionnaires disease can be brought on by exposure to the spray of a shower or sink tap, or even the consumption of drinking water. Fortunately, the risk of developing Legionnaire’s disease at domestic properties are still relatively low, but having your system checked is of course never a bad idea.
Where Is Legionella Found?
Legionella can grow rapidly in both hot and cold water systems across all residential properties. Though catching Legionnaires disease at home is relatively rare, the risk is higher when bacteria can multiply and increase the danger levels quickly, so keep a close eye on your shower head and taps. Legionella is common in water heating and cooling systems, such as air conditioning systems, where water temperatures are expected to range between 20-45°C, allowing the bacteria to grow.
How Do I Catch Legionella?
In order to catch Legionnaires Disease, you would have to be exposed to the Legionella bacteria, which is typically found in either natural water sources, such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs, (although in low numbers) or in purpose-built water systems, e.g, hot and cold water systems, cooling towers, evaporative condensers and spa pools.
The risk is increased with age, but it is known to affect individuals with the following conditions or circumstances in particular:
● Over 45 years of age
● Smokers and Heavy Drinkers
● Chronic Respiratory or Kidney Disease
● Diabetes, Lung and Heart Disease
● Impaired Immune System
Legionella, and by extension, Legionnaires Disease, is often contracted through the inhalation of water droplets that have been contaminated by the bacteria.
Knowing The Symptoms
Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease will typically develop around 2-10 days after the initial exposure to the Legionella bacteria. It’s expected that you will notice the following symptoms in the first few days:
● Muscle Aches
● Fever (40℃ or more)
After this, you are more likely to experience the following symptoms as well: Cough/Mucus, Shortness of Breath, Chest Pain, Gastrointestinal Symptoms; Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhoea, Confusion/Disorientation or Other Mental Changes
If you suspect that Legionella is present in your water system and making you ill, it is important to take immediate action to prevent the spread of the bacteria. This may include shutting down the affected system, cleaning and disinfecting the system, and testing the water for Legionella.
How to prevent outbreaks
To keep Legionella outbreaks at bay, a comprehensive approach to water management is essential. This includes:
- Regular maintenance and cleaning of water systems
- Keeping water temperatures at or above 140°F
- Regular testing and monitoring of water systems
- Implementing a water management program
- Training employees on the risks and proper procedures
- Addressing and fixing any issues with plumbing
- Consulting with specialists who have experience in preventing and controlling Legionella outbreaks.
It is important to consider the specific risks and challenges associated with your facility and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By regularly testing and monitoring your water systems, potential problems can be detected early, which can help prevent small issues from becoming big ones. Having a plan in place to prevent, manage, and control Legionella outbreaks is essential for protecting the health of your employees and the public.
At H2O Comply, we offer UKAS-accredited Legionella water testing, monitoring, sampling and microbiological laboratory analysis, undertaking an extensive range of testing services. Routine water sampling is a cost-effective tool in helping to determine the overall quality of the water within your water system. Implementing a regular sampling schedule will help to ensure the quality of the water on your premises and manage the risks associated with Legionella. Contact us today.