Understanding the risk of Legionnaires’ disease
Thankfully, legionnaires disease is very rare, but it does occur more often than you might think. In the UK, cases normally peak between July and September and in 2016 there were over 300 confirmed cases. Outbreaks have also occurred abroad in popular tourist destinations. So, what is it and what are the symptoms? Many people still don’t know.
- Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious type of pneumonia which causes infection and inflammation of the air sacs inside the lungs. These air sacs fill with liquid, making it very difficult to breathe and for oxygen to travel to different areas of the body.
- The disease is caused by a bacterium called legionella bacterium. A person gets infected by inhaling droplets from a contaminated item.
- The illness develops between 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the contaminant. The initial symptoms include flu-type feelings, aching muscles, fatigue, headache, a dry cough, shortness of breath and fever.
- The disease can be particularly dangerous for those with a weakened immune system and can prove fatal for them, especially those aged over 70.
- Legionnaires’ can result in serious complications such as organ failure and sepsis.
- The bacteria thrive in warm conditions such as water between 20 and 45C. It is often found living harmlessly in ponds and rivers in low numbers but can multiply quickly in water supply systems and air conditioning systems.
- The bacteria only becomes a risk to health when warm temperatures allow it to multiply rapidly. This often occurs in water systems that are maintained or cleaned properly or are poorly designed.
- Big complexes such hotels and offices are susceptible to the bacteria as their water and air conditioning systems are larger and more complex, meaning the bacteria can spread much faster. Make sure any water systems in your office are regularly and thoroughly cleaned. For Office Cleaning Gloucester, visit http://intocleaning.co.uk
- The disease can also be contracted through contaminated sprinklers, shower heads and in spas.
- It can be treated with a course of antibiotics and thankfully, approximately 90% of sufferers make a full recovery after treatment.
- Outbreaks are closely monitored in the UK, with a national surveillance system to identify and control any contaminated sources. When a suspected case arises, health teams must notify the local health protection teams as it’s a notifiable disease.
- The reason for its name is that the disease was first recognised in 1976 when members of the American Legion became ill while attending a hotel convention in Philadelphia.
- Whilst the disease affects people of all ages, it is predominantly caught by people over the age of 50. It affects more men than women and is worse for those who drink heavily, smoke or have an existing weakened immune system.
- The disease is not contagious.
- Approximately one third of all cases in the UK are contracted abroad in areas such as the Mediterranean and India.