Detecting Legionella early to prevent disease

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The Legionella bacteria can cause a range of diseases, collectively known as Legionellosis, the most commonly known being Legionnaires’ disease. It is most deadly among those people who have weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, young or unwell, which is why outbreaks in hospitals so often lead to fatalities.

It is an infection of the lungs, a type of pneumonia, and the bacteria is often found naturally in rivers, reservoirs and lakes but can grow in water sources such as cooling towers, spas, and cold and hot water systems. It is spread through droplet infection – that is, through the air – and is therefore highly contagious.

Already this month there have been two news-worthy instances of the Legionella bacteria having been found in water supplies.

The first of these was in the cooling towers at Faltec Ltd., Bolton, where at least four employees have become ill with the disease as a result of being exposed to the bacteria at work. A neighbour living close to the company has also been treated for the illness.

The second case has been at Hereford County Hospital, where low levels of Legionella bacteria were found in the water supply – these were, fortunately, detected during one of the hospital’s routine regular checks for the bacteria and no patients or staff are known to have developed the infection.

Both Faltec and Hereford County Hospital have had to go to great lengths to deal with the contamination of their water supplies. Faltec, for instance, has installed sealed units that are known to prevent Legionella.

Detecting Legionella is crucial in minimising the impact of any contamination. If you are an employer or are responsible for building maintenance, you have a duty of care to your employees and to any member of the public who might become exposed to contaminants in your water supply.

The law is clear in this regard and as well as avoiding infecting people in the first place, having your water supply regularly tested for Legionella is a good way to demonstrate that you have done all that is in your power to prevent this bacteria from causing harm. This will stand you in good stead should the worst happen and should someone seek to make a claim against you for personal injury. We offer comprehensive Legionella assessments and also provide training and advice through our website – call us or email us for more information to see how we can help you to avoid Legionella and all the negative impacts it can lead to.

by AD Scott Consultancy Services Ltd