In the summer of 1976, there was a pneumonia outbreak in Philadelphia, USA that affected 221 people and killed 34. Most of those affected were members of the American Legion who were attending a convention at a city hotel. After extensive investigations the disease was identified and subsequently called Legionnaires’ disease after those members of the American Legion that were affected.
Legionella pneumophilia was the causative agent responsible for the outbreak. Unfortunately, it is very commonly distributed in nature, especially water. It has affected humans for a very long time and continues to do so and one of the many ways to manage and control the spread of the Legionella species is to conduct legionella testing.
The following are 5 compelling reasons why you should regularly test your water for legionella bacteria.
- They Colonize Man-made Water Systems
Legionella occurs in rivers, lakes, and soil. The bacteria also have the ability to colonize man-made water systems and water storage facilities. This is because these systems and water storage facilities are often just at the right temperature to permit the Legionella bacteria to effectively multiply and thrive.
- They Survive in Temperatures We Consider Ideal
Because Legionella survives best in temperatures ranging from 20 to 45 degrees Celsius (95 – 115 Degrees Fahrenheit), they are more likely to find a home where humans consider comfortable.
The situation is made even worse when conventional water and air-conditioning engineering techniques are involved. As such, it is very easy to find Legionella in aquatic systems such as a Spa baths, water fountains, showers and even hot or cold domestic water systems.
- They May Find a home in Your Shower-Head
The majority of legionella related infections come from domestic building water systems. This is especially true for systems that may generate a spray, such as your shower, or an air conditioning system. The bacteria find a home where biofilm and sediment accumulate – in dirty shower heads.
This means that certain water systems like a shower, spray taps, spa pools, salad bars or sidewalk misters and ornamental fountains can be prime breeding grounds for these potentially dangerous bacteria. This is one of the main reasons why you should consider a legionella risk assessment for your home or place of work and Legionella testing when the risk is significant.
- Legionnaires Disease is Airborne
Most of the diseases you may suffer as a result of exposure to legionella bacteria such as Commonly Acquired Pneumonia are airborne. This may sound like a good thing, impossible to catch since you’d have to breathe in the bacteria.
But that’s not the case. Keep in mind that many of the water systems we use today produce jets, sprays or mists (from a hot shower) that you can inhale and increase the risk of infection significantly.
- Legionella Bacteria has Poor Reproducibility
The one advantage we have over legionella bacteria is that they reproduce very slowly. This is another prime reason you should consider risk assessment and testing.
If you reduce the levels of bacteria to a minimum, it’s very likely that you will also minimize the risk of infection. Regular testing and monitoring of your water systems is recommended to help prevent outbreaks of diseases caused by legionella bacteria.
Keep in mind that prevention is always better than cure and a simple test can save you, your work colleagues and other people a lot of time, money and effort it would take to deal with an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.