Legionella is one of most common diseases likely to break-out in your building systems and other Fresh Water Environments. It is caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila, which is also responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, Pontiac fever and Pontiac fever pneumonia.
Legionella is one of several bacterial diseases which are commonly found in our environment and are difficult to eradicate because they are resistant to many disinfectants. They are particularly difficult to control because they thrive in low temperature conditions and in places where there is a lot of organic material. They are also able to survive for long periods in tap water, hot and cold water, condensation water, and moist air.
There are over 100 species of Legionella pneumophila and they are usually spread by aerosol droplets in the air or by contaminated water. The main routes of transmission are through inhalation of airborne droplets from an infected person or animal or from contaminated water or aerosols. The bacteria can also enter the body through the eyes, nose or mouth and then travel to the lungs.
Legionella bacteria can survive for weeks in cool water, so cooling towers are important reservoirs for Legionella. Legionella is able to grow at temperatures as low as 5C, so it is very important to keep cool water at a constant temperature of below 60C.
Legionella has been identified in more than 90% of cooling tower water samples collected from the UK. Cooling towers are used in many industries, including food processing, pharmaceuticals, breweries, oil refineries and power stations. There have been a number of outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease associated with cooling towers, although they are not thought to be the cause of the disease.
If the water in a cooling tower is contaminated with Legionella, it can be passed into the water supply of buildings, where it can grow and multiply. If it reaches high levels, the water can cause health problems for people who drink the water or use the water for other purposes.
Legionella infection is serious and it can cause severe illness. In the worst cases, it can cause death. People with weakened immune systems, especially older people and people with pre-existing lung problems, are particularly susceptible to the disease.
Legionella infections can be diagnosed by blood tests, sputum and urine cultures. Sputum samples can be tested directly using special culture techniques. Urine tests are less reliable, but are still useful if there is a high suspicion of Legionnaires’ disease. Legionella infection can also be detected by X-ray imaging and CT scanning.
If Legionella is suspected, the water must be treated to kill the bacteria. There are two main methods for treating Legionella. The first method involves the use of chemicals, and the second method involves heat treatment. Both methods can be used separately or in combination.
Chemical treatment is usually the most effective method of controlling Legionella. However, it is not always successful and it is important to use chemical treatment correctly.
If Legionella bacteria are found in the water, it must be treated within 24 hours. Chemical treatments must be applied for at least 15 minutes.
The most effective chemical treatments are copper sulphate, hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate and quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals kill Legionella by damaging their cell walls and preventing them from growing. However, these chemicals should never be mixed together because they react chemically.
In addition to chemical treatments, heat treatment is sometimes used. Heat treatment uses heat to destroy the Legionella bacteria. This method requires much higher temperatures (between 70 and 90C) than chemical treatments.
Heat treatment is more effective than chemical treatment, but it cannot be used without prior knowledge of the presence of Legionella in the water. Heat treatment can be combined with chemical treatment, but it is not recommended.
To ensure the safety of your staff and the public, you need to carry out regular inspections and testing of your cooling towers.
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