Legionella disease on the rise

A Legionella Awareness Day campaign has uncovered that over 1,300 cases of legionella have been reported in the UK since 2014, with gardeners being at particular risk.

Reports of the bacteria, which naturally occurs in water and soil, have increased by 35% this year alone. The symptoms of the disease include high fevers, muscle aches, tiredness and headaches.

Legionella hit the UK news earlier this year when a grandfather in Norfolk died after inhaling the bacteria from a hosepipe that contained stagnant water. After coming in to contact with the bacteria, he contracted Legionnaire’s Disease, a severe form of pneumonia that has resulted in over 80 fatalities in England and Wales since 2012.

Head of the campaign and Legionella Consultant at HydroChem UK, Paul Abbott is keen to make people aware and encourage them to stay safe against the potentially fatal disease.

He said: "In the day-to-day we are constantly working with schools, businesses, care homes and hospitality and leisure facilities to make sure they are all preventing fatal levels of the bacteria and looking after their water systems.

"The campaign however was to make the general public aware of how they can avoid coming in to contact with the bacteria, of which the over 50’s are most at risk. Legionella is so easily avoided, and it’s important that people know what small changes they can make to keep themselves safe."

In the run up to Legionella Awareness Day, held by water treatment company HydroChem UK, the company submitted 317 Freedom of Information requests to councils across the UK. 

In Greater London 163 cases have been reported over the last three years while in Greater Manchester 61 were reported and 44 in Nottinghamshire.

The awareness day was joined by a number of both national and international organisations, including The NLCE UK, The Water Management Society, Tenant Referencing UK, and the New Mexico Department of Health.

Abbott added: Legionella has featured in the news a lot this year and many of the  incidents reported could have been easily avoided if people were aware of the potentially dangers, which is why we decided it was time for HydroChem to do something about it.

"If this year’s awareness campaign has helped spread the message of staying safe against Legionella and prevented even just one case of Legionnaire’s Disease, then it’s all been worth it. We‘re keen to make next year’s campaign even bigger and better, spreading the important message even further."

Five tips for avoiding Legionella:

1. Make sure the water from your outside tap is actually cold. Cold water should be kept to below 20 degrees celsius to discourage bacteria from growing. 

2. Run your outdoor taps regularly. If you haven't used the tap for a week, run the taps or showerhead for at least five minutes before you use them. Clean and disinfect your shower head on a quarterly basis. 

3. Keep your water systems, like tanks and water butts, covered and clean. Legionella thrives where there are nutrients like rust, sludge and slime. 

4. Be careful around standing water. Standing water is a pool of water that doesn't flow, like water left in a bucket or a watering can, or even the water left inside a hosepipe.

Standing water can harbour Legionella so it is important to take precautions when handling it. Be careful not to stir up any aerosol that could be breathed in and potentially cause harm. 

5. Be careful when gardening. Legionella grows in soil, so wear gloves when handling soil and compost. Handle compost and soil in a well-ventilated area

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