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Legionnaires Disease is one of a group of diseases collectively known as legionellosis. Thirty-seven different species of bacteria are associated with legionellosis, the most dangerous being Legionella pneumophilia.
Infection by L. pneumophilia can result in pneumonia and other potentially life-threatening effects. Legionellosis is associated with a fatality rate of approximately 12%.
There are groups of people who are more susceptible to contracting legionnaires disease. The higher risk groups are those over 45, smokers and heavy drinkers, those suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease and people whose immune system is impaired.
Legionella organisms are widespread in natural water sources and have been found in rivers, lakes, mud and soil. However, Legionella can also colonise man-made recirculating hot and water systems such as storage tanks, calorifiers and air conditioning systems.
Legionellosis is caused by the inhalation of airborne droplets, which contain legionella bacteria. However, infection can only occur under certain conditions that permit the growth and multiplication of the organism and involve the creation of droplets, which can be inhaled.
Legionellosis can be prevented and controlled as follows:
a) Eliminating conditions which permit the proliferation of legionella bacteria
b) Minimising the creation and release of water sprays and aerosols.
c) Precautions which limit the proliferation of Legionella species include:-
If you suspect that you or an employee have contracted the disease as a result of your work then there is a legal requirement to report cases under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences (RIDDOR) Regulations.
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