What is Legionella?
Legionella is a type of bacteria that is typically found in large and complex water systems like those in healthcare facilities and hotels. When given the right environment, this heat-loving bacteria can breed and become a source of Legionnaires’ disease. That disease can be contracted when an individual breathes in water droplets containing Legionella. The disease was first named in 1976 when American Legion members attended a convention in Philadelphia and suffered from symptoms of pneumonia. This unusual lung infection would later become Legionnaires.
A few of the requirements for Legionella growth are
- Biofilm (a thin, slimy film of bacteria that adheres to a surface of water)
- Temperatures above 68°F
- Low water flow or stagnation
Symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease
Legionnaires’ Disease is a very serious form of pneumonia and can include:
- Muscle aches
- High fever
- Shortness of breath
Serious long term effects of Legionnaires’ Disease include:
- Debilitating fatigue
- Reactive arthritis
- Cognitive impairment
Doctors will use X-rays or physical exams to check for pneumonia, they should also use a urine and sputum sample to test for Legionella. Early diagnosis is critical for minimizing long term consequences of Legionnaires’ Disease
Legionella in HVAC systems
When conducting an assessment of your building, there are a few key areas that you must identify as potential Legionella reservoirs.
- Cooling towers
- Portable water systems such as domestic hot water plants and boilers
- Shower heads
- Ice machines
- Drinking water fountains
- Decorative fountains
- CPAP machines that use tap water
- Whole building or portable humidifiers that use tap water
It is recommended that testing be conducted even if cooling tower treatment is conducted. . Sampling should take place on a regular basis (quarterly for cooling towers, every 6 months for portable water systems). Sampling should continue until all cooling towers and building potable water distal sites have been sampled at least once to establish a baseline. Worst case sampling locations can then be established with respect to establishing exposure risk and health risk of the most immunocompromised residents.
Hawks and Company offer full testing services carried out but our trained technician. Legionella in HVAC systems has been the probable cause for recent outbreaks in New York and Pennsylvania.
If any of your residents are showing symptoms please seek medical assistance immediately.
For more information please watch this video created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or visit CDC.gov/legionella