Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia, is one of a cluster of diseases that are all caused by a bacterium known as Legionella. The Legionella bacteria are not uncommon in ponds, lakes, pools, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and other systems of natural water. However, it is rarely the case in these natural systems that conditions for bacterial growth are conducive.
When people do become infected and there is a breakout of the disease, it tends to be in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at high enough temperatures to encourage bacterial multiplication. Examples of these systems include industrial and domestic versions of cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems, and spa pools.
The Legionella bacteria thrive in the following conditions:
* when water temperature is somewhere between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius
* when water is re-circulated in your system
* where there are deposits such as rust, scale, sludge or organic matter – these provide nutrients that support or encourage the growth of the bacteria
Legionnaires’ disease can be contracted through the inhalation of minute droplets of bacteria-infected water suspended in the air. These airborne droplets might come from a shower or tap, or could also be dispersed through the air-conditioning. Everyone is at risk of infection, but particularly the elderly and those people with a weak immune system.
Symptoms can develop anywhere between two days and two weeks after exposure to the bacteria. The disease is easily treated by antibiotics if it discovered in good time.
What are the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease?
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are actually very similar to the symptoms of influenza (the common flu) and include:
* a high temperature, fever and chills
* a sore throat and niggling cough
* aches and pains in the muscles, headaches
* occasionally diarrhoea and mental confusion
Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and therefore is not spread from one person to another, and cannot even be contracted from drinking contaminated water.
What should you do if you think you may have contracted Legionnaires’ disease?
If you have developed the symptoms above and are concerned you may have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, see your GP as soon as you can. It is difficult to get a Legionnaires’ disease diagnosis because of the similarity of the symptoms to the flu. Your GP will arrange for a urine or blood test, which will be able to tell if you have Legionnaires’ disease or not.
If you believe that you may have contracted your illness at work, then you must report this fact to your manager, plus anyone connected with your work’s health and safety and/or occupational health department. Your company has a legal requirement to report instances of Legionnaires’ disease that may have been contracted within their premises to the Health and Safety Executive.
Blue Fish Water Management specialises in performing risk assessments for companies and buildings, making sure that health and safety standards are upheld and that your workers, patrons or tenants are as safe as your business reputation. And also, having your water checked is your legal duty.
To arrange for a risk assessment, contact Blue Fish Water Management today.