Hospitals, dental clinics and care homes are considered high risk for Legionella — a piece of information that may be surprising to many. After all, these areas are usually assumed to be not just clean, but also thoroughly sanitised, so it could be hard to imagine how a type of bacteria that causes fatal infections can be present in those facilities.
Among the places listed as Legionella risk spots, care homes should be given more attention. It is crucial to implement strict water quality monitoring and Legionella testing in care homes because of two main reasons.
One, many care home structures and water systems share similar features that make the facility vulnerable to Legionella contamination, such as:
Some rooms and water outlets are rarely used; warm, clean, stagnant water is the ideal breeding ground for Legionella.
Care homes often carry out renovations and room additions to suit new legislation and business needs, and these can affect water pipes and hot water systems.
Temperature control for showers and water outlets may not be strictly monitored.
Two, the residents of these facilities — the elderly — are likewise considered to be at a higher risk than other sectors of the population because of lowered immunity, health conditions and weak respiratory system due to their age.
These four factors are helpful in ensuring care home residents are protected from Legionnaires’ disease:
Routine inspections. Water systems should be checked, inspected and provided the proper treatments as part of routine maintenance and disease prevention.
Vigilant clean up and monitoring. Showerheads should be descaled every few weeks and taps and water outlets that are not used daily should be flushed every week. Water storage tanks and hot water cylinders should also be cleaned regularly.
Investment in the right systems. Care homes should also factor in the installation of systems that reduce Legionella outbreaks in their facility improvement budget. Some helpful upgrades include switching to short and direct pipework, proper pipe and tank insulation, and purchase of accessories such as lids and screens to cover water sources and prevent contamination.
Risk assessment and regular testing. Care home managers and administrators can carry out regular water testing, which is one of the most effective ways to prevent Legionella contamination, through the use of Legionella testing kits. These are affordable, portable and easy-to-use kits that allow users to conveniently collect water and send them to a laboratory for testing. The care facility can then take the necessary steps according to the test results.
Written by +Duncan Hollis, Aquacert