Is Legionnaires' disease still a risk in 2023?

Is Legionnaires’ disease still a risk in 2023?

March 7, 2023


While we might not hear about it regularly in the news, Legionnaires’ disease is absolutely still a risk in 2023. Despite advances in medical research and public health efforts, the disease continues to affect people around the world.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious form of atypical pneumonia caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, which can be found in natural water sources like lakes and streams. However, it can also be found in man-made water systems including domestic water systems, hot tubs, cooling towers, and other plumbing systems. The disease is spread when people inhale water droplets that contain the bacteria, which can enter the air via aerosols from taps, showers, pools, and where water surface tension is broken.

While the overall occurrence of Legionnaires’ disease is relatively low when it does occur it’s incredibly serious, especially for people with weakened immune systems, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions. Symptoms of the disease can include a fever, shortness of breath, and coughing.

Is Legionnaires' disease still a risk in 2023?

Preventing Legionnaires’ disease

Preventing Legionnaires’ disease requires a multifaceted approach that includes both private and public health measures. Here are some of the ways that people and organisations can work to prevent the spread of Legionnaires’ disease:

  • Regular maintenance of water systems: To prevent the growth of Legionella to dangerously high concentrations, it’s important to maintain water systems properly. This can include regular flushing of pipes, disinfecting water tanks, and ensuring that water heaters and cooling towers are kept at the appropriate temperature, all of which must be carried out to a certain standard in order to conform to ACoP L8 and associated support guidance documents. The Legionella risk assessment is a required document in order to comply with MHSWR 1999, COSHH and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Regular testing: Water samples can be tested for the presence of Legionella bacteria. This can help identify areas where Legionella may be present, and allow for appropriate action to be taken to prevent it from growing to dangerous levels.
  • Management of water storage: Cooling towers are a common source of Legionella bacteria. It’s important to properly manage cooling towers to prevent the spread of Legionella. This can include regular cleaning and disinfection, and ensuring that the water is either cool or hot, as Legionella can grow rapidly between 20-45°C.
  • Education on prevention: Education is an important factor when it comes to preventing the spread of Legionnaires’ disease. Business owners and certain employees should be aware of the risks associated with Legionella, and how to prevent it from spreading. Appropriate education can consist of courses which inform individuals on the importance of regularly monitoring water systems, as well as what data needs to be saved for future reference.
  • Public health monitoring and response: Public health officials must work to monitor potential outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, to identify the source of those outbreaks. This can help prevent the unnecessary spread of the disease, and allow for the provision of treatment to those who need it.
Is Legionnaires' disease still a risk in 2023?

As you can see, Legionnaires’ disease remains a risk in 2023, with some indications in recent years that it may actually be on the rise. While there are effective measures that can be enacted to prevent the disease from spreading, it requires a coordinated effort from businesses, individuals, and public health officials, to ensure that proper precautions are taken. By ensuring that the proper systems are put in place, business owners can help to ensure that outbreaks are kept to an absolute minimum.

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