How mechanical services combat Legionnaires' disease 40 years on

Legionnaires’ bacteria disease (LBD) was discovered in 1976 making this year the 40th anniversary of the breakthrough. As an owner of an air conditioning system it’s important you know about Legionnaires’ and how to prevent it.

What is Legionnaires’ bacteria disease (LBD)?

LBD is an infection of the lungs which is a fatal form of pneumonia. It can be contracted if you do not maintain and clean your evaporative condensers or cooling towers twice a year.

A person can develop Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling water mist contaminated with Legionella bacteria. Early symptoms of the disease are similar to flu, those being slight fever, headaches, achy muscles and lack of energy. Last year in the UK alone there were 485 cases reported.

Those more at risk of contracting the disease are the elderly, smokers, diabetes sufferers and those with respiratory problems. Men are also 3 times more likely to contract the disease than women.

When contracted, symptoms can show anytime between two and fourteen days after exposure. Those infected are treated with intravenous antibiotics.

A modern problem

In 2012 Legionnaires made national news when 21 people contracted the disease from a DIY warehouse in Staffordshire, UK. Dirty hot tubs placed on display by the establishment were infected with the killer bacteria which resulted in 3 people dying from the silent disease.

Criminal proceedings and compensation to the families was only recently announced in 2015 after 3 years of investigations. The next hearing is due to be held at North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court this coming September.

Preventative measures

To prevent contracting Legionella, all stored hot water should be maintained at a minimum of 60°C (140°F). The temperature of the hot water should be 50°C (122°F) or higher at the tap outlet unless mixed to a reduced temperature.

At all costs you must avoid any conditions that allow water to stagnate. Large water-storage tanks exposed to sunlight can produce warm conditions favourable to high levels of Legionella bacteria. Frequent flushing of unused water outlets will also help alleviate stagnation.

As a mechanical services company, 361 Degrees aims to raise awareness to this illness as the upkeep and maintenance of air conditioning systems are vital.  

A degree further

For our clients we complete a full water systems risk assessment report when they are first contracted to fully assess the type of testing they will need throughout the year. Depending on their building and their daily running, we would determine which monthly or weekly tests are necessary. For example, incoming main water temperatures would be checked twice a year whereas showers within changing rooms would need to be checked weekly.

This article highlights the health and safety behind air conditioning and mechanical systems and we hope that it informs and prevents any more cases of Legionnaires’ being contracted.

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