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Legionella – not just for hospitals/big buildings

Not 100% sure what the main reason for this story is but I guess it is useful: Legionella Not Just Found In Hospitals, Some Homes Infected « CBS Pittsburgh.  In my discussions with people about Legionella there is definitely an opinion out there that it is something that happens in big buildings – offices and hospitals and the like.  So probably not a bad idea to remind people that Legionella can be found elsewhere.

4 thoughts on “Legionella – not just for hospitals/big buildings

  1. There are many well-documented cases of Legionellosis occurrence from exposures in homes and in some supermarkets. The bacteria are common in soil and often arrive in our buildings via the water. They thrive at 95 to 100 F (34 to 36 C), a temperature close to that of the hot water we use for bathing, showering, etc.. After we turn off our shower or bath water, what remains in the shower head or tub spigot (or even a sink faucet) is at a perfect temperature for the organisms to grow.

    A few years back there were numerous cases found in vacation homes in Spain where part-time occupancy resulted in long periods of stagnant water in the shower head or the tub spigot.
    These condos had solar hot water heaters that were not heating the water to the recommended 140 F (60 C) that is considered advisable for killing Legionella bacteria. A shower is a great device for increasing exposure since it aerosolizes the organism, making it far more likely that it will be inhaled.

    A fairly common, high risk device is a hot tub or a bath with jacuzzi-style jets that create an aerosol of the water droplets just above the surface where our heads are conveniently located and inhalation of droplets is highly likely.

    In supermarkets, the water spray used to keep vegetables fresh is also an effective means to aerosolize droplets with Legionella p. in them.

    But the most common source is still believed to be cooling towers for air-conditioning systems, and these are surely far more common in large buildings than in homes.

    Hospitals are the primary sites where Legionellosis is diagnosed because when patients have pneumonia, there is a culture taken that reveals the organism. In contrast, when people get pneumonia elsewhere, it is rarely diagnosed because treatment is begun immediately rather than waiting for a culture before prescribing drugs.

    Pontiac fever, also caused by Legionella bacteria, is common but rarely is the organism identified unless there is a large epidemic in a single building and public health officials get involved.

  2. In commercial buildings the mantra of “keep it hot and keep it moving” still stands! It’s important to have a good regime of bacterial testing to check if the legionella bacterial is present and in what numbers. Also a review of your management systems, assessing the risks appropriately, good communication and education / training will keep the bacteria under control in commercial buildings.

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