Where Does Legionella Come From
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This article looks at the question: where does Legionella come from? If you are concerned about Legionnaires' disease, find out the best ways to prevent it in your water system.
What is Legionnaires' disease?
Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases that are caused by legionella bacteria. This includes the highly serious Legionnaires' disease and other similar though less serious forms of Lochgoilhead fever and Pontiac fever.
Legionnaires' disease, in some situations, can prove fatal, it is a more dangerous form of pneumonia, and everyone can be susceptible to its infection. The risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease will increase with age, but some people are at a much higher risk. These people include:
- People over the age of 45
- Heavy drinkers and heavy smokers
- People who are suffering from kidney disease or a chronic respiratory condition
- Sufferers of diabetes, lung and heart disease
- Anyone who deals with an impaired immune system
Legionella is a naturally occurring bacteria found in freshwater locations such as lakes and rivers. In these locations, the bacteria are generally found in low amounts, and they will not lead to disease. Unfortunately, Legionella can multiply rapidly under certain conditions.
Dangerous levels can be achieved through rapid growth. At this point, the bacteria can cause Legionnaires' disease or Legionellosis.
Legionella was first discovered in 1976. It was found in the water supply of a hotel in Philadelphia. At the time, the U.S. Bicentennial Convention of the American Legion event was happening at the hotel. By the end of the convention, over 200 people had inhaled or contracted the bacteria. This is what led to Legionnaires' disease gaining its name.
How do people get Legionnaires?
People can contract Legionnaires' disease by inhaling small water droplets, also known as aerosols. They are often suspended in the air and will contain Legionella bacteria. Specific conditions will increase the risk of Legionella, such as:
- The water temperature in some or all of a system is somewhere between 20 to 40 degrees Celsius. This makes the water a suitable breeding ground for growth.
- It is possible for breathable water droplets to be formed and dispersed through a water tower or water outlet.
- When water is stored or recirculated, the conditions necessary for Legionnaires' disease are far more likely.
- If there are deposits that can help support bacterial growth by offering a source of nutrients for the organism within a system. This can include biofilms, organic matter, scale, sludge, or rust.
Causes of Legionnaires
How the infection spreads
Most people become infected with Legionnaires' disease once they inhale tiny microscopic water droplets that contain the legionella bacteria.
This could be from various sources, such as the spray from the shower, a tap, a hot tub, or the water used in a ventilation system. Below is a list of some of the water types that outbreaks have been linked with:
- Drinking water
- Birthing pools
- Fountains and other decorative water installations
- Swimming pools
- Heaters and hot water tanks
- Cooling towers found within air conditioning systems
Aside from breathing in water droplets, the infection can be transmitted through other means, this includes:
- Aspiration. This occurs when liquids accidentally enter your lungs. This usually happens because coughing or choking occurs while drinking. Unfortunately, if you aspirate water containing legionella bacteria, you can develop Legionnaires' disease.
- Several people in the past have been known to contract Legionnaires' disease through the soil. This can happen while working in the garden or simply using potting soil that has been contaminated.
Not everyone who is exposed to legionella bacteria will become sick. You are far more likely to develop an infection if you:
- Smoke - Smoking damages the lungs; this means that you are far more susceptible to lung infections
- Possessing a weakened immune system could be due to specific medications such as corticosteroids or medication used to prevent organ rejections after a transplant. A weakened immune system could also result from a virus such as HIV/AIDS.
- Having a chronic lung disease or other serious condition includes diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, or emphysema.
- Be over the age of 45
Legionnaire's disease can be a major issue in nursing homes or hospitals. In these environments, germs can spread quickly and easily. People are also often more vulnerable to infection when in these locations.
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