As we continue with Water Quality Month, we wanted to review the dangers of Legionnaires’ disease and provide valuable tips on awareness and prevention.
Legionella is a bacteria found in water sources across the country. This bacteria goes wherever water is present from lakes, spas, pools, and even air conditioning systems.
When you breathe water droplets that contain this harmful bacteria, you can become sick and develop legionnaires disease. In most cases, this disease is a result of poor water quality. Here are some ways to spot it and the steps required to ensure safety.
Legionnaires’ disease 101
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that can kill between 5-15% of infected people. You can catch this disease by inhaling infected water droplets; symptoms usually develop 2-10 days after exposure.
The legionella bacteria attacks the lungs and can be particularly dangerous for people with breathing problems and weakened immune systems. The bacteria thrive in warm water, such as pools, spas, and public baths. The bacteria thrive when moisture is between 20°C to 45°C.
Self-check water quality
If you go to a public pool or spa, you can check the water quality with pool test strips. You can easily find these in many local shops.
The strips check the water’s chlorine and bromine levels and give you a rough read on the pH. By studying these parameters, you’ll know how clean the water is. Ideally, you’ll want the following numbers:
- A pH between 7.0-7.6
- Chlorine levels at 1-3 mg/L i
The likelihood of legionella is greater when pool operators fail to meet hygiene rine standards.
Visual inspections go a long way. If you swim at a local pool, ensure you can see the drain at the bottom of the deep end. Also, check the pool’s sides and edges – these should not feel slimy.
Cloudy and murky water is a tell-tale sign that pool operators aren’t engaging in proper cleaning.
Even if the water is clear, never swallow the water of any public pool or spa. Also, it’s recommended you take a shower as soon as you exit the pool. Good hygiene can help prevent the spread and infection of diseases, including Legionnaires’.
You’re more likely to develop the disease if you:
- Are over the age of 45
- Smoke regularly or drink heavily
- Have a weakened immune system
- Suffer from chronic lung disease
- Have diabetes or kidney problems
Not everyone exposed to the bacteria develops symptoms, but these factors can put you at greater risk for Legionnaires’.
Early signs of Legionnaires’
As mentioned, this bacteria attacks the lungs. If you swim or go to public baths regularly, consult with a doctor should you develop any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain in your chest
- Flu-like symptoms
- A fever that won’t go away
Any of these can be signs of Legionnaires’, and early detection will be vital in avoiding any dangerous complications, like severe pneumonia.
High-risk areas of contamination
Know where you may be most at risk. The following locations have a higher probability of being areas of higher contamination:
- Heated indoor pools
- Hot tubs and whirlpool baths
- Swimming pools equipped with water jets
- Steam rooms
- Turkish baths and saunas
Water droplets are legionella’s best friend when it comes to spreading. Be careful where you breathe.