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Understanding Legionnaires’ Disease: Key Symptoms and Risks

26 June 2024

No matter the size of your business or industry, if your premises has a water system, you could be at risk of Legionella contamination.

This dangerous bacteria can cause significant harm to you, your customers, and your employees, not to mention disrupt your operation and affect your reputation.

Incidents like this can happen anywhere if precautions aren’t taken. In 2002, a council-owned arts facility in Barrow-in-Furness was the source of a Legionella outbreak that caused the deaths of 7 members of the public and 180 more to suffer from serious illness.

In this blog, we’ll explore Legionnaires’ disease and, more crucially, how you can prevent it so that you can continue to run your business safely and with peace of mind. 


What is Legionnaires’ disease? 

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of lung infection (pneumonia) caused by Legionella bacteria. It’s contracted by inhaling contaminated water drops from faucets, shower heads, fountains, etc.

Legionnaires’ disease can cause serious health complications for any individual, but especially those who are susceptible, such as children, the elderly, or people with autoimmune diseases. 


Common sources of Legionella contamination 

When trying to avoid this potentially life-threatening lung infection, it’s crucial to understand its common sources so you can prevent it. 

Legionella bacteria proliferate in water temperatures between 20 °C and 45°C, making man-made water sources such as plumbing systems, water storage tanks, and cooling towers the perfect breeding ground.

Contamination can occur in areas where water is left stagnant, or pipework is damaged, with Legionella growing in as little as two weeks. 


What are the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease? 

When an individual has contracted Legionnaires’ disease, symptoms can take 2 to 10 days to develop. Symptoms are very similar to other types of pneumonia and include: 

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle pain 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Confusion 


Risk Factors

It’s worth emphasising that certain groups of people are more vulnerable to the dangers of Legionnaires’ disease. 

While everyone needs to be aware of the risk of Legionella bacteria, it is essential for those who have a legal obligation through duty of care in institutions such as schools, health care facilities, and care homes where individuals are susceptible. Without proper prevention measures, the lives of the people you care for are at risk. 


How to prevent Legionella contamination and Legionnaires’ disease 

Fortunately, there are plenty of measures you can take to ensure that this does not happen to your business or institution. Proper water system maintenance is key to mitigating the risk of legionella contamination and other harmful bacteria. A thorough water maintenance routine includes:


Regular Legionella risk assessments 

A Legionella risk assessment is the first step to ensuring a safe water system. This is where a quality professional makes an on-site visit and carries out a comprehensive analysis of your water systems to identify any areas of contamination or potential risk. 

It’s vital that the assessment is repeated every two years or whenever there are significant changes to your water system or premises usage, such as during renovations or seasonal closures. 

If any contamination or issues are detected, a water hygiene specialist can provide you with a plan of action to return your system to a safe and usable condition. 


Water monitoring and testing 

Consistency is crucial when it comes to monitoring your water system. Without routine sampling and testing, harmful bacteria can go undetected and spread to other areas of your water system. Conduct tests regularly and use accredited laboratories for sample analysis. 


Water temperature checks 

Water temperature is the catalyst for legionella contamination, so you should always keep an eye on your hot and cold water systems. Regular temperature checks should be conducted at various points in your water system at least once a month. 


System maintenance and cleaning 

Alongside assessments and monitoring, another way you can keep on top of your water system maintenance is by regularly flushing outlets like taps and showers that are infrequently used, as well as descaling and disinfecting taps, showerheads, and water storage tanks.


The importance of professional assistance 

With so much at stake, the thought of carrying out Legionella measures and water system maintenance can seem daunting. If you or a member of your on-site staff miss a crucial detail or get the process wrong, it can lead to contamination, illness and costly remedial work.  

That’s why, when it comes to managing your water system, it’s always wise to seek professional assistance. Enter H2O Hygiene. 

At H2O Hygiene, we’re dedicated to ensuring our client’s water systems are safe and free of life-threatening bacteria. We offer a comprehensive range of water hygiene services to keep legionella and other risks at bay and ensure your building complies with water hygiene standards. Our services include: 

  • Legionella risk assessments and testing 
  • Water treatment services 
  • Remedial works
  • Training

With the health of your staff, students and care users on the line, you can’t afford to take any chances on water system maintenance.


Safeguard your water system from Legionella with H2O Hygiene 

To find out more about our extensive range of water hygiene services or to inquire about an ongoing support and maintenance contract, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team today. We’re on hand to help!

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