Legionnaire’s Disease: Everything You Need to Know

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Legionnaire’s Disease

When talking of water borne diseases, one typically thinks of impure drinking water. For all other matters such as showers, our main concern is that the water should look clean. After all, we’re only using it to wash and clean the dirt off our bodies. However, legionnaire’s disease is often caused by inhaling small droplets of contaminated water while having a shower or bathing. This is a severe form of pneumonia. Thus, you do need to pay attention to the water in your tanks and pipes.

 Legionnaire’s disease is caused by bacteria named Legionella. This occurs naturally in fresh water sources such as lakes and rivers. However, it can also grow in man made water systems such as fountains, hot water tanks, hot tub, showers etc. When droplets of such contaminated water are inhaled, it can trigger coughs, muscle aches, fever, shortness of breath etc that are signs of legionnaire’s disease. In rare cases, this disease can also be caused by the aspiration of drinking water. If left untreated, this disease can be fatal. However, the good news is that it can be treated and better still, prevented.

The key to preventing Legionnaire’s disease is maintaining clean water systems in your building. Warm temperatures are most conducive to the growth of legionella bacteria. Hence do not allow warm water to stand for long periods of time. If hot water is to be stored, it should maintain a temperature higher than 60 degrees C. AquaCert – Care Home Legionella Testing kits are easily available and can be used to check for the presence of Legionella bacteria. These tests should be conducted if the cold water temperature is above 20 degrees Celsius. This is because the bacteria lie dormant at temperatures below 20 degrees C. Ideally check the water temperature of your cold water storage tank at least once every 6 months. If you do get a positive test result, you must immediately notify the Local Authorities or Environmental Health Authorities. Smoking is also one of the factors that cause an increased risk of legionnaire’s disease. Hence, this is a good reason to quit smoking today.

Your water systems, pools and spa should also be cleaned regularly as stagnant water encourages the growth of Legionella bacteria. Even if you do not use a tap or shower, flush the water frequently through it so as to clean the pipes. Shower heads and taps should be descaled at least once a quarter. Fitting tanks with insect screens and keeping them covered can also reduce the risk of water contamination.

An early diagnosis is key to treating this condition. To confirm his or her diagnosis, your doctor will ask for a chest x-ray along with sputum tests and urine tests. If confirmed, the patient will need to follow a course of antibiotics. Hospitalization is often required in the course of this treatment. It is also important for the patient to drink plenty of fluids and avoid smoking or alcohol to prevent any complications.