Legionnaires’ disease prevention should be on the radar for any school, nursing home, healthcare institute, hotel or other large building. The disease may not be as rare as you think, with a 43% rise in confirmed cases of Legionella in England and Wales between 2015 and 2018.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease got its name from members of the American Legion who contracted the disease in 1976  while attending a convention at a hotel in Philadelphia.

It is a severe form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria, which grows in large numbers in warmed water systems that remain idle for long periods of time. This is why buildings with large and more complex water systems, such as hotels, hospitals, office blocks, schools and large buildings are most at risk of Legionella infection.

Legionnaires’ disease develops when people breathe in small droplets of water infected by the Legionella bacteria. This potentially fatal disease is a severe form of pneumonia that affects around 500 people a year in England alone. It is fatal in approximately one in 10 cases. Legionella bacteria colonies may grow in man-made water systems. For this reason, it’s important to control the risks by introducing appropriate testing and prevention measures.

Everyone is susceptible to Legionella infection, and the disease can be fatal for people with weakened immune systems, the elderly, as well as heavy smokers and drinkers. The disease can also lead to life-threatening complications such as septic shock or organ failure.

Here are 10 things you need to know about Legionnaires’ disease prevention

  1. Legionnaires’ disease is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals are required to inform local health protection teams of suspected cases.
  2. Although Legionella bacteria can be found in harmlessly low numbers in natural water systems, it can multiply rapidly in artificial water supply systems such as air conditioning and water warming systems.
  3. Legionnaires’ outbreaks usually peak between July and September in the UK (during the warmer summer months).
  4. Legionnaires’ disease can infect your building’s hot and cold water systems.
  5. Larger buildings with more complex water supplies – such as hospitals, hotels, and office blocks – are more vulnerable to Legionella contamination as bacteria in these systems can spread quickly.
  6. The risk temperature range is between 20-45 degrees Celsius. A hot water system should be set to 60 degrees centigrade so that it delivers water to the taps at 55 degrees.
  7. It is a legal duty to monitor and check your water temperatures constantly and to assess whether any Legionella risk is preset.
  8. A Legionella risk assessment must take the individual characteristics of each hot and cold water system into account.
  9. All records of assessments and testing of the water system should be kept on hand for two years and then stored or available for up to five years.
  10. Sites should have diagrams of their water systems.

A guide to Legionnaires’ Disease for landlords in the UK

A recent increase in reported outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease means that landlords need to take special care to be aware of the risks and measures to prevent infection.

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Legionnaires’ disease incidences have hit record levels. According to Public Health England, showers in about 1.5 million households in the UK could be harbouring the life-threatening Legionella bacteria. Outbreaks in the UK have occurred at the BBC in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Barrow-in-Furness, and Kingston and Stafford hospitals.

Legionnaires’ disease risks for landlords to manage

  • If conditions are favourable in man-made water systems, Legionella bacteria colonies may start to grow.
  • The risk temperature range for Legionella is between 20-45 degrees Celsius.
  • A hot water system should be set to 60 degrees centigrade so that it delivers water to the taps at 55 degrees Celsius.

The legalities

  • It is a legal requirement to monitor and check your water temperatures constantly.
  • All records of monitoring should be kept available for up to 5 years.
  • The responsibility for testing and monitoring rests with the authorised person on site, even if they are using a third-party service, making owners and landlords responsible for minimising the risk of Legionella in their water systems.

Legionnaires’ disease prevention from Smarter Business

A Legionnaires’ disease prevention plan should include regular water testing, especially for larger businesses. Smarter Business can provide automated systems for wireless temperature reporting, monitoring and alerting systems. We will ensure that you are fully compliant, whilst avoiding the need for hundreds of man-hours constantly checking temperatures.

The water hygiene team at Smarter Business can offer Legionella risk assessments and reviews, monitoring of water services, water sampling and analysis, as well as consultancy services. We can automate the temperature reporting, monitoring and alerting processes, reducing the hassle and resource of having to constantly check the temperature of your water system. Contact one of our water monitoring experts today.

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