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Legionella is a bacteria which can live in water and has become a problem when brought into a buildings water systems and other man made environments where there can be optimum conditions to allow the organism to multiply. The bacteria was named after the outbreak in 1976 which affected members of the American Legion Convention in Philadelphia.
There is evidence that the bacterium can be transmitted by ingesting contaminated water, but in most cases the organism is inhaled as an aerosol (a fine mist that can be inhaled). The incubation period is 2-10 days. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, a dry cough and difficulty breathing. Initially a high fever will prevail with, chills, headache and muscle pain, in some cases the individual may become delirious. Not all exposed however will develop symptoms of the disease and those that do not develop the full-blown disease may only exhibit a mild flu like infection.
The bacterium can be found naturally in environmental water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs usually in low numbers. They require nutrients to multiply, which can be provided by detritus in Cold Water Storage Tanks and on dirty taps and showers. The bacteria can also live in algae, amoebae within a water system complex. Conditions such as scale, sediments and bio films (a build up of other bacteria and organisms that can produce a slime on contact with water) all create the ideal habitats for the Legionella bacteria to multiply. These habitats also act as a means of protecting the bacteria from biocides that would normally be used to inactivate them in a free suspension. It is therefore important to reduce the number of these habitats in water systems and reduce the exposure to water droplets and aerosols and so reduce the risk of the exposure to legionella.
If you need your water supply tested to establish whether there is legionella present, we can take samples as part of a management programme. It is important that samples are taken from the right places in the water system to provide the necessary information to make informed decisions. A management programme, where a Legionella Risk Assessment has been carried out and schematics drawn of the water systems, will provide this information.
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