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The dangers of Legionnaires’ disease

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As governments work to consistently provide access to clean water, it's easy to take it for granted. However, many of us are unaware that even clean-looking water can present hidden dangers.

Legionella, the cause of Legionnaires’ Disease, is a waterborne bacterium commonly found in natural water courses, usually in small volumes and poses a risk to human health. When the bacterium arrives in stagnant water maintained at a higher temperature, whether a boiler system, cooling tower, or condenser, it can quickly multiply, and significantly raise the risk level. If the infected water makes it into our respiratory system, either through ingestion or via airborne water droplets, a severe form of pneumonia can manifest; otherwise known as Legionnaires’ Disease.

Scientists note that the bacterium only multiply within a specific temperature range between 68-113 °F, so wherever there is the possibility of bacterial growth, it is imperative we take the relevant precautionary measures.

Should I be worried about legionnaires' disease?

Legionnaires’ Disease is a severe condition. That said, there are common myths that we must first debunk.

  • With almost 50 types of legionella bacteria, but most do not cause disease in humans​.
  • Legionella pneumophila is the most dangerous, and can cause Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever​no.
  • No fixture is more susceptible to contamination than any other, so those who believe a single-handled faucet poses a higher risk than a double-handled tap, for example, need not worry.
  • The danger stems from the water source, so routine maintenance and testing is vital.

Who should be concerned?

Individuals contract the disease through inhaling droplets of contaminated water, with symptoms taking anywhere from two to ten days to appear. What starts as a headache and muscle pain will quickly evolve into breathing difficulties and gastrointestinal discomfort. The disease is similar to pneumonia but more severe, meaning public entities in all categories must heed warnings. Those in the hospitality industry, such as Disneyland, hotel operators, recreation centers and gyms managing steam rooms, hot tubs or swimming pools, need to remain vigilant and frequently test equipment.

Care homes and hospitals are high-risk environments as those most prone to infection commonly have a weakened immune system or have an underlying illness. Guaranteeing bacteria-free water is therefore of the highest priority.

Airports, office buildings, and housing developments are further hotbeds for bacterial growth as they make use of large boiler systems or cooling towers.

Recent outbreaks of legionnaires’ disease

  • During October 2017, four guests and one employee suffered from the disease after staying in Round Rock Hotel near Austin, Texas. The hotel was shut down and thoroughly disinfected.
  • In November 2017, Disneyland Park experienced critical levels of the Legionella bacteria in two cooling towers, forcing the company to shut the towers down as twelve visitors contracted the illness.

There is ample advice on avoiding outbreaks and by following guidelines, it is simple to mitigate dangers. Furthermore, by using investing in water dispensers with purification systems, you can enjoy water without any impurities. The Waterlogic Firewall UV sanitisation technology plays a central role in providing bacteria-free drinking water and has proven its 99.9999% effectiveness against a range of bacteria and viruses. Protect your water at home, the workplace and never cut corners when it comes to providing a safe source of water. After all, this could be a matter of life and death.