Prevention of Legionnaires Disease Around Your Home

by Phillippa Marshall

What is Legionnaires Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by the bacteria legionella.  Legionnaires’ disease is not infectious from person to person. Instead, the bacteria spreads through mist, such as that created by air-conditioning units in large buildings. Adults over the age of 50, as well as those with compromised immune systems, chronic lung disease, or a history of heavy tobacco use, are especially susceptible.

Many individuals who are exposed to the bacteria do not have any symptoms. Cough, fever, chills, shortness of breath, body aches, headaches, and diarrhoea can occur in those who develop symptoms.  Infection happens when a human breathes in bacteria present in the water. Almost all patients with Legionella infection will need hospitalization for treatment. If not treated promptly, Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal.  Antibiotics can be used to treat Legionnaire’s disease.


How do you catch Legionnaires Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease can occur when a person inhales or breathes in Legionella-contaminated water vapour or dust. While there are several Legionella species, the two most frequently causing disease are Legionella pneumophila and Legionella longbeachae.

Legionella pneumophila is found naturally in warm water conditions. When warm water is aerosolised (i.e. converted into water vapour, vapor, or steam) and inhaled, it poses a danger.  L. pneumophila can be found in the water of untreated/contaminated sources:


Spa pools and baths

The continuous introduction of biological material, recirculated water, and warm temperature (37°C) provide an ideal breeding environment for bacteria. Bubbling and aerosol in close proximity to people makes it possible to inhale water vapour, because you don’t have to be in the hot tub to do it. Many pools and spas have elaborate plumbing networks to provide bacteria with vast surface areas to replicate. Legionella may not be the only cause for alarm, since Pseudomonas infections may occur in poorly controlled systems.



Air conditioning units

Most employees spend a considerable amount of time indoors, in air-conditioned offices. A variety of complications, some potentially fatal can arise if the air-conditioning system is not regularly maintained. The air-conditioning system in a house can be thought of as the building’s lungs. The air-conditioning system pulls in ambient air, cleans it, heats, cools, or humidifies it, circulates it around the house, and then exhausts a portion of it to the outside world.  The consistency of the air many employees breathe at work is largely based on the building’s air-conditioning system’s servicing records. Low indoor air quality, irritable workers, and potentially very sick workers will result from subpar air conditioning.  The cost of inadequate office air conditioning is immense. According to research, increased sick leave and reduced productivity as a result of inadequate air conditioning saves several millions of dollars per year. The human costs of inadequate air conditioning include infectious infection, breathing issues, and the potentially lethal Legionnaires Disease (or Legionella).


Hot water systems and plumbing

Hot water tank and its plumbing can be dangerous, especially if it is not used for long periods of time.  To destroy Legionella bacteria, hot water storage should be heated above 60°C. Because of heat convection, if temperatures vary from 30°C to 40°C and heavy sludge has built up on the bottom of the tank, it provides perfect conditions for Legionella formation.  In certain situations, hot water systems are switched off or thermostats are deliberately turned down to improve energy efficiency.  Warm water systems used in hospitals and aged care facilities minimize temperature and are typically set at 42°C, and if feeding several outlets or an elaborate device, some type of systemic disinfection is recommended.   Another thing to think of is solar hot water production. They can need an electrical booster device if they do not reliably achieve the temperature required to remove Legionella.



Potting Mix & Soil

Legionella Longbeachae is a naturally occurring environmental organism living in soil. Carry a particulate disposable mask when treating potting mix, let it settle, don’t shake the container before use, dampen dry potting mix to avoid dust escape, hold at arm’s length, wipe down leftovers, and brush away damp remains. The fact that the vast majority of gardeners are over the age of 50 makes them statistically more fragile.


Outdoor Taps and Hoses

Rubber can biodegrade into bacterial nutrients. When this is combined with an infrequently used water outlet and summer temperatures, legionella can develop inside biofilm on the inside of the hose. When you turn on the switch, which is normally connected to something that causes spray, it dislodges and exits.

One basic law to remember when using detachable hoses is that bacteria needs water to expand. Hanging up the garden hose and allowing it to drain will prevent biofilm formation.


Rain water tanks and sprinkler systems

The majority of rainwater is naturally relatively clean and chlorine-free, making it ideal for bacterial development. During the summer, water temperatures in Australia can range from 25 to 35°C. Birds, leaf litter, worms, and mice will all make their way into the tank, collecting sludge. Rainwater tanks can be used to feed toilets and irrigation systems for gardens, and they can also be used to distribute aerosol. Furthermore, once a pressure washer is fed, additional issues arise.  It is recommended that you carry out yearly water tank cleaning .   Keeping your Water Tank clean does more than just guarantee the quality of your water source, keep up on regular cleaning prevents pump damage, extends the life of water filters, and reduces the risk of damage to household faucets.



Water Fountains

It doesn’t take long for algae to form in the water of a fountain when it’s exposed to the light, and for leaf matter to accumulate. These conditions cause bacteria to flourish, but what’s more worrying is that fountains are often located near entrances and, in some cases, in reception areas. Many have spray nozzles that, while decorative, contain water droplets that can be inhaled or reach from an open window. Bromine is the most widely used disinfectant to keep them sterile, and they can be washed out every three months to keep the pond clean.


This is not an exhaustive list of possible threats, but it demonstrates how various circumstances can pose a risk of Legionnaires’ Disease, although there are other causes that are similarly dangerous and often ignored.

The time between infection and signs for Legionnaires’ Disease is usually between 2 and 10 days, making it impossible to locate the cause retrospectively.


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