Legionella affects around 500 people a year, and can lead to death.
But there is still little understanding amongst the wider public of this disease, or how to prevent it.
So here’s 10 facts about legionella.
- So why is it called Legionnaires’ disease? Well, it is named after the American Legion, some of whose members caught it while attending a convention at a Philadelphia hotel in 1976.
- The legionella bacterium causes Legionnaires disease in humans, which is a type of pneumonia that produces inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs. These sacs then fill with liquid making it difficult for the lungs to transmit oxygen around the body via the bloodstream.
- Legionnaires’ can be contracted by inhaling droplets of legionella bacterium from a source that has been contaminated. However, it isn’t contagious and cannot be passed from person.
- About 90 percent of people who contract Legionnaires disease recover fully after a course of antibiotics.
- Legionnella grows in water between 20 to 45C. It multiplies quickly in artificial water supply and air conditioning systems, particularly those which have been maintained properly or are outdated.
- Symptoms of Legionnaires disease include tiredness, muscle aches, dry coughing, shortness of breath, chest pains, headache and fever. Life-threatening complications can include organ failure and septic shock, and kill around 10 percent of normally healthy people who contract the disease.
- People usually become ill between 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the legionella bacterium. Those with weakened immune systems are most at risk, along with smokers and heavy drinkers. It affects people over 50 more commonly, with with most deaths occurring in those 70 or over.
- Larger buildings with more complex water systems are more vulnerable, such as hospitals, office blocks and hotels. However, Legionnaires’ disease can also (more rarely) be found in showers, sprinkler systems and spas.
- A third of Legionnaires’ disease cases in the UK are contracted while overseas, mostly in the Mediterranean and tropical countries.
- Legionnaires disease is a notifiable disease, and there is a national surveillance scheme to detect clusters and outbreaks in England and Wales.
Want to know more about legionella? Check out our qualifications at https://www.highfieldqualifications.com/qualifications/compliance/legion