what is legionNAIRES' disease?
A severe form of pneumonia; lung infection usually caused by infection by inhaling bacteria. Known as Legionellosis. Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by Legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease. Legionnaires’ disease is potentially fatal and everyone is susceptible to infection.
HOW CAN IT BE CONTRACTED?
People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. It is possible for breathable water droplets to be created and dispersed e.g. aerosol created by a cooling tower, or water outlet where there are deposits that can support bacterial growth providing a source of nutrients for the organism e.g. rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms.
WHERE IS LEGIONNAIRES' DISEASE FOUND?
Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, e.g. rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic).
COMBATTING LEGIONNAIRES' DISEASE
If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises (e.g. landlord), you have a duty to understand and manage legionella risks. All systems require a risk assessment but not all systems will require elaborate control measures. A simple risk assessment may show that the risks are low and being properly managed to comply with the law. If such cases, your assessment may be complete and you may not need to take any further action, but it is important to review your assessment regularly in case anything changes in your system.