Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia (lung infection) that can be fatal and may require hospitalization and antibiotics. Legionella bacteria is found in all bodies of fresh water and thrives within water systems where the temperature is between 20°C-45°C and there is a restricted flow. Both commercial and residential properties can be a haven for legionella bacteria and knowing how to ensure your systems are compliant will reduce the risk in Legionella being present in the system.

Legionella was discovered in 1976, after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at an American Legion convention in a Philadelphia hotel. Of the 182 reported cases, 29 people died and it was down to ineffective management of the hotel’s air conditioning system.

How do people catch Legionnaires disease?  

Legionella is transmitted when a person is exposed to an aerosol consisting of water contaminated with legionella bacteria. When this aerosol is inhaled into the lungs it poses a significant risk to health and can cause legionellosis. This commonly occurs with showerheads which aerate the water and are considered high risk assets due to their rate of transmission.

Potential sources of contaminated water are widespread and include lakes, rivers and bore holes where trace amounts can enter via the mains supply. Essentially the legionella bacteria grows and multiplies in water systems in the built environment such as:

  • Hot tubs and spa pools
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Shower heads and sink faucets
  • Large, complex plumbing systems
  • Decorative fountains and water features
  • Cooling towers and similar structures that contain water and a fan as part of a centralized air-cooling system for buildings or industrial processes

It is worth noting that Legionella has specific growth requirements. The ideal water temperature for Legionella proliferation is between 20-45 °C with summer months providing an ideal breeding ground. Legionella proliferation is higher where water flow is restricted. Systems with unused or dead-end/dead leg pipework are at greater risk unless these parts of the system are removed or flushed regularly.

Since the bacteria thrives in conditions where rust, sludge, scale, biofilms or organic matter is present, it is vitally important to keep any water storage tanks (hot and cold) serviced and clean to prevent Legionnaires disease.

Legionella Symptoms: Recognizing the Signs of Infection

Most people contract Legionnaires’ disease after visiting hotels, resorts, cruise ships or healthcare providers such as hospitals and long-term care facilities. This is due to the complexities of the systems and the variation in occupancy of rooms and therefore the turnover of the system. Symptoms of Legionella may include:

  • Nausea and headaches
  • Abdominal pain, muscle aches and pains
  • A dry cough that doesn’t go away
  • High temperature, fever, and chills
  • Signs of mental confusion (occasionally)
  • Respiratory problems such as shortness of breath

In general, people don’t catch Legionnaires disease from those that are infected, but an infected water system may put several users at risk of contracting the disease.

Identify at-risk individuals from Legionnaires’ disease

Everyone is susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease, but some people are more at risk:

  • Diabetics
  • People over 45 years of age
  • Smokers and heavy drinkers
  • People suffering from chronic heart, lung, respiratory or kidney disease
  • Anyone with an impaired immune system or on immune suppressing medication

Legionnaires’ disease can potentially be fatal, with an increased risk of infection during warmer months and to those who utilise facilities with older water systems.

Legionella Management Solutions (LMS) can help identify how efficient your water system is and if it’s compliant through a Legionella Risk Assessment. LMS provides a bespoke service to customers to ensure a full, end-to-end, hot & cold-water system management service:

LMS can also work with your in-house team or existing partners, to provide some or all the services to suit your specific requirements.

To minimise the risk to yourself and others, achieving compliance with Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) is of vital importance. Every member of the LMS team is trained to the highest industry standards to ensure that you will achieve compliance with current legislation.

For more information on how to achieve compliance or to book your risk assessment, call our team today 0808 169 7289.