Twelve people getting incredibly sick in a residential complex in the Bronx, New York in January this year created a widespread scare within the community. With community violence being the usual concern among residents due to the number of gangs, locals expressed that they didn’t need some sort of disease adding to the threats to their lives that they deal with on a daily basis.

Initially, nobody knew exactly what was causing the sickness until eight of the 12 people were revealed to be living in the same area. Health and medical professionals were able to narrow down the potential causes, and the provided Legionella test results explained the symptoms manifested by the 12.

With further tests, the source of the Legionella bacteria was identified – they were the cooling towers of the residential complex. Squalid conditions of the community, as well as other natural factors (like changes in temperature) are deemed the reasons behind the proliferation of the Legionella bacteria within the cooling towers.

After the test results came out, disinfection of the cooling towers commenced to ensure that there would be no more outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease that will happen in the future.

Such outbreaks are happening in various parts of the world (in late 2014, there were reported outbreaks in the northwest region of Spain, Rhode Island, and Lisbon, Portugal), and they’re actually difficult to prevent because Legionella bacteria naturally occur, and there are various factors that cause them to come about. Studies have even shown that the bacteria may be present in puddle water, soft ice cream machines, etc.

The only way of truly preventing contamination and exposure to the bacteria is to observe cleanliness and acknowledge that the bacteria can easily occur wherever there is moisture or water; therefore, vigilance is important. Regular water testing will help immensely in terms of informing people that the deadly bacteria are present or not; in addition to that, switching to proven effective cleaning agents against Legionella bacteria can effectively prevent contamination, exposure and infection.

And speaking of regular water testing, there are Legionella testing kits available these days and they’re all quite affordable and easy to use. You just need to gather water samples which then will be tested in a lab. Results will be provided quickly, and if the samples test positive of Legionella contamination, the results will also include recommended actions for treatment to fully eliminate the presence of Legionella bacteria in the water distribution systems where the samples came from.

This is a small investment to make to ensure health and safety, and property owners are highly advised to test their water regularly to establish that they are not at risk of infection.

Written by +Duncan Hollis, Aquacert