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Legionnaire’s disease can be fatal, but there is still not enough awareness about how people can get it from seemingly ordinary activities such as taking a shower, swimming in the pool or admiring a water fountain. Moreover, some of the places that are identified as at “most risk” include health institutions such as care homes,hospitals and dental clinics – the very places where you expect to receive health care can also be the ones that will expose you to the infection-causing bacteria called legionella. This type of bacteria thrives in warm and hot water environments, and you can get it when you inhale droplets of the contaminated water or vapour.

To prevent infection, the public is advised to take precautions when going to identified legionella “hotspots.” These are places that provide the most conducive environment for legionella to thrive, or the usual activities that take place there can actively contribute to the spread of the bacteria.

  1. Your own shower. The tell-tale sign is black muck that forms around the shower ring, which some people often mistake for algae. Most of the time, simply scrubbing off the area is not enough to get rid of the bacteria, as it is possible that there is also contamination from water pipes and interiors of the system. 
  2. Spas and pools. Facility managers should be able to determine the right cleaning, disinfection and maintenance process as well as the accurate detergent and chemical formulation that effectively kills infection-causing bacteria. 
  3. Care homes. Care facilities are vulnerable to recurring legionella. There are several reasons why some studies categorise them as medium to high risk: rarely used outlets, the addition of rooms that may affect the water system, the use of temperature control units for showers and outlets, and the overall vulnerability of the residents due to age and health conditions. 
  4. Dental clinics. Dental unit water lines can be prone to cross infection. Proper cleaning and sterilising routines and regular testing should be practised to prevent microbial growth and contamination. 
  5. Hospitals. Patients in health care facilities, especially if they have been confined for longer than a week, are at risk for legionella infection. The use of medical equipment that has not been cleaned according to recommended regulations or health workers who may have neglected to follow high standards of hygiene can cause the spread of the bacteria. Again, vigilant monitoring, testing and monitoring is crucial to protect the health of patients.

It’s important to remember that there are now several ways to effectively control legionella contamination, including periodic testing using legionella testing kits. Homeowners and facility owners can use the standard test kit for analysing water samples from their lines and send it to the laboratory for analysis. Based from the test results, they can then implement the right anti-legionella steps following the recommendations from the testing services professionals.

+Duncan Hollis