Legionellosis and How to Help Prevent it in Your Building (Part 2 of 4)

Legionellosis and How to Help Prevent it in Your Building (Part 2 of 4)

In this second blog of the four-part series, let’s take a closer look at Legionellosis and its impact. Legionellosis includes two types of illnesses: Legionnaires’ disease, which results in lung infection (pneumonia), and Pontiac fever, which results in flu-like symptoms. Both are caused by different bacteria species in the Legionella family. About ninety-eight percent of legionellosis results in Legionnaires’ disease; it can be deadly, and the severity of symptoms is worse than Pontiac fever, that is why there is more focus on Legionnaires’ disease. It was first identified in 1976 during a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia. Pontiac fever, first reported in Pontiac, Michigan, is a big deal too for those who contract it and for the medical centers who are burdened by an outbreak.

Symptoms associated with Legionnaires’ disease include coughing, shortness of breath, muscular aches, fever, and headache. Most patients recover fully with treatment using antibiotics, although hospitalization is most times required. About one in ten patients die. People that are most susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease are aged more than 50 years, current or former smokers, those with lung diseases like emphysema or COPD, and those who have a weakened immune system from disease or medicines. Unfortunately, there are currently no vaccines for Legionnaires’ disease.

The bacteria occur naturally in fresh water, and only become a problem when they are amplified in man-made water systems that are not properly maintained. Legionella grows best in warm water that is not moving or that does not have enough disinfectant, and it is associated with biofilms (groups of bacteria and other microorganisms). Most outbreaks occur in buildings that have large water systems such as hot tubs, cold/hot water tanks and heaters, large plumbing systems, cooling towers (structures that contain water and a fan as part of air-cooling systems), and decorative water systems (e.g. fountains).

Legionnaires’ disease is contracted when a patient gets Legionella in their lungs by breathing in tiny droplets of contaminated water; it does not spread from person-to-person. Exposure to the droplets can occur from splashing around faucets, showers, or fountains; jets in hot tubs; or anywhere aerosolization occurs in an infected water system.

in 2016, the Center for Diseases Control (CDC) reported 6,100 cases in the United States and cautioned that it is likely underdiagnosed. The reported number of Legionnaires’ disease cases grew four-and-a-half times between 2000 and 2016—it’s not clear if this is due to increased awareness and testing, increased Legionella in the environment, aging pipes in water systems, a larger population of susceptible people, or a combination of these factors. What is clear is that reported Legionnaires’ disease is on the rise.

CDC investigations showed that 9 out of 10 Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks were caused by problems that were preventable with more effective water management systems. Often, there was human error (e.g. someone didn’t replace a filter as recommended by the manufacturer), there were equipment failures (e.g. a disinfection system didn’t work), or factors external to the building changed the water quality (e.g. nearby construction).

In next week’s blog we will delve into Standard 188 which was developed to help building owners and managers prevent Legionellosis.

RPF Environmental can offer you both an outstanding team and reliable, cost-effective testing results, but what really sets us apart from the competition is our service. We believe that each project deserves the same amount of attention and focus as though it were our only one, and we will find the unique, best-fit solution to your needs. We will analyze your situation from multiple angles and determine the best way to handle your Legionnaires’ disease prevention needs. Contact us at www.airpf.com or 1.888.SAFE.AIR (888.723.3247).

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