Legionella… there’s something in the water

Legionella… there’s something in the water

Posted on Mar 11, 2016

Legionella… there’s something in the water



What is Legionella? 

Legionella - there's something in the water Infographic



What is Legionella? 

Legionella is a bacteria that causes illnesses collectively referred to as 'legionellosis'. The most common of these is Legionnaire's Disease, a severe form of pneumonia affecting the lungs.

If not treated quickly and properly, Legionnaire's Disease can be fatal. Infection occurs when a person breathes in water vapour containing the bacteria. It is not contagious. Legionnaire's Disease got its name in 1976 after an outbreak in Philadelphia at the convention of the American Legion.

Following the convention, over 150 Legionnaires were hospitalised and more than 25 died.

After much investigation and speculation as to the real cause of the epidemic, one clever scientist identified the previously unknown bacteria and traced it back to the air conditioning system at the hotel the convention had taken place in.

Other illnesses caused by Legionella bacteria include the lesser known Pontiac Fever – though non-fatal, this disease causes a mild upper respiratory infection and Lochgoilhead fever – similar to Legionnaire’s Disease but without the pneumonia element.

Usually found in water, the bacteria typically thrive in lakes, streams, moist places such as soil and man-made water systems including hot tubs, fountains, cooling towers and large scale plumbing systems.

The perfect breeding ground

Temperatures between 20°C and 50°C present the perfect breeding ground for Legionella bacteria – however the optimum temperature for multiplying is 37°C (the same as the ‘normal’ body temperature).

The bacteria feed on scale, algae, rust, organic matter and sediment found in the water source. Without regular inspections, monitoring, maintenance and cleaning, these nutrients can be present within your water system – providing the perfect buffet for the bacteria to grow and multiply!

What are the symptoms of Legionella?

Symptoms of Legionella normally appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria. They include;

  • High Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Energy loss
  • Chest Pains

Treatment for illnesses caused by legionella bacteria normally include a course of antibiotics. Early detection of the illness is key for survival as up to 80% of untreated infections can result in fatality.

Those who suffer from diabetes, respiratory, lung, heart or kidney diseases, as well as those with impaired immune systems and heavy drinkers or smokers are also at a higher risk of infection.


Download your free legionella risk assessment template

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