Legionella 5 Introductory Questions & Answers

Legionella Introductory Q&A

January 2023

Legionella is often popping up in the news, unfortunately by the time many people hear the word “Legionella” it is for the wrong reasons.

5 things to know about legionella

You may have seen headlines hitting the news before where unfortunately a person or a group of people have become seriously unwell or in some severe cases have sadly died after contracting Legionnaires Disease.

As independent and impartial Legionella compliance experts we are often asked a number of Legionella related questions. Therefore, we decided to put together in one place, 5 short question and answers that give a brief introduction to Legionella.

1. How did Legionnaires start?

Legionnaires‘ disease acquired its name in 1976 after an outbreak of pneumonia occurred among people attending the American Legion convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, 221 became ill, and unfortunately, 34 people died.

After the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was called in and mounted one of its largest investigations ever to try to identify the cause. Bioterrorism, foul play, microorganisms, and toxins all were considered.

Five months later, after much speculation and failed tests, CDC microbiologist Joseph McDade finally identified a red, rod-shaped organism as the cause of the illness. It was a bacteria, unlike anything scientists had seen before. They called it Legionella.

In April 1977, the CDC coined the name of the disease that had sickened and killed so many and baffled scientists for months as “Legionnaires’ disease.”

Did you know? The first major recorded outbreak of Legionnaires Disease in the UK was in 1985 at a hospital in Staffordshire, with 103 cases, of which 28 people died.

2. Where is Legionella usually 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 (commercial and domestic).

Legionella image

3. How can a person contract Legionnaires’ Disease?

People can contract Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria, by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols) suspended in the air containing the bacteria.

Certain conditions can increase the risk of Legionella if:

  • The water temperature in all or some parts of the system may be between 20-45 °C, which is suitable for growth
  • It is possible for breathable water droplets to be created and dispersed e.g. aerosol created by a cooling tower, or water outlets
  • Water is stored and/or re-circulated
  • 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

People can also be infected with Legionella while washing their hands, showering and bathing in a whirlpool.

Legionella can be found in many different types of water systems. All Employers, Building Owners and Landlords have a duty of care and a legal obligation to undertake a Water and Legionella Risk Assessment on all workplace buildings where there is a foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria.

Based near Stafford in Staffordshire we are ideally placed to carry out a Legionella Risk Assessment in Stoke on Trent & Staffordshire, Warrington & Cheshire, Birmingham, Coventry & West Midlands, Nottingham & East Midlands, Manchester & North West.

4. Legionella – Who is at risk?

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk including:

  • people over 45 years of age
  • smokers and heavy drinkers
  • people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  • diabetes, lung and heart disease
  • anyone with an impaired immune system

5. Legionella – What are the symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease?

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease can include:

  • a cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • a high temperature
  • flu-like symptoms

These symptoms are from the NHS website, if you suspect you or someone else could have Legionnaires’ disease it is essential to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. 

what is legionella

We hope that this short introduction to Legionella is useful for yourself and for your water system. Our team are happy to help if you have further questions. Or if you would like to know more about how we can assist your specific site, whether that be for a Legionella Risk Assessment, Water Sampling, Routine Monitoring, Tank Cleaning or Training, get in touch with our team who can assist you.

Who Are Qube Environmental?

We are independent and impartial Asbestos & Legionella compliance experts who take pride in our commitment to customer service compliance and safety.

Based in Stafford near Staffordshire we offer a variety of Asbestos & Legionella Services here at Qube. Such as: Asbestos Management Survey, Refurbishment & Demolition Survey, Asbestos Sampling, Legionella Risk Assessment, Legionella Water Testing & Sampling & Routine Monitoring across a number of sectors throughout Stoke on Trent & Staffordshire, Warrington & Cheshire, Birmingham, Coventry & West Midlands, Nottingham & East Midlands, Manchester & North West.

Our team of experts are proud certified members of the Legionella Control Association, Alcumus SafeContractor Approved and Gold SafePQQ verified. We are also ISO 9001 & ISO 14001 certified for the services we offer giving you peace of mind that you’re getting the best advice and guidance.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you get compliant and stay compliant!

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