Summer legionella warning issued as awareness day approaches

Older people, parents and business owners are being encouraged to stay vigilant against a potentially deadly disease that has infected 200 people this year.

Legionella Awareness Day on 30 August aims to make people aware of the risks of the bacteria.

The most recent fatality in the UK was in June 2017 when a grandfather died after inhaling toxic Legionella bacteria from a hosepipe that contained stagnant water.

The bacteria naturally occurs in water and soil but increased levels can cause Legionnaire's Disease, a serious infection of the lungs that is fatal in one in 10 cases. There have been 80 deaths since 2012.

Once coming into contact with the bacteria symptoms include muscle ache, headaches, fever and tiredness and should be reported to a doctor immediately.

Levels of Legionella are likely to increase when water is recirculated, there is rust, sludge or slime present or water temperature is between 20-45°C. Hoses, swimming pools, spas and hot tubs are a particular risk, making Legionella more dangerous during summer. The disease has also been linked to compost.

The initiative has been set up by national water treatment company the HydroChem Group, with Legionella Consultant Paul Abbott keen to spread the message about keeping safe after recent incidents.

Abbott said: "There is such a big risk especially to older people, children and those with impaired immune systems because of the lack of awareness and knowledge about Legionella.

"We want to make people across the UK and beyond aware that Legionella can kill, and that there are simple precautions you can take in order to keep safe.

"Speaking as a parent, it's essential to keep children protected, especially in the summer when they may be playing in rivers, lakes, swimming pools and with sprinklers.

"There is extra significance if you run a businesses or are a landlord as you have a duty to understand and manage Legionella risks. A company was fined £1.8 million after an employee contracted the disease in 2013."

A Legionella awareness website and helpline have been set up to offer free advice and support to people concerned about the threat of Legionella.

Five tips for avoiding Legionella

  1. Make sure your hot water is actually hot and your cold water is actually cold. If hot water is above 60°C this kills Legionella bacteria, but be careful to avoid scalding. Likewise cold water should be kept to below 20 o c in order to discourage bacteria from growing.
  2. Run your bath, sinks and shower regularly. If you haven't used your bath, sink or shower for a week, run the taps or showerhead for at least five minutes before you use them. Clean and disinfect your shower head on a quarterly basis.
  3. Keep your water systems (like tanks, water coolers and water butts) covered and clean. Legionella thrives where there are nutrients like rust, sludge and slime.
  4. Be careful around standing water. Standing water is a pool of water that doesn't flow, like a lake or puddle, or even a glass of water that has been out for days. Standing water can harbour Legionella so it is important to take precautions when handling it. Be careful not to stir up any aerosol that could be breathed in and potentially cause harm.
  5. Be careful when gardening. Legionella grows in soil, so wear gloves when handling soil and compost. Handle compost and soil in a well-ventilated area

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