Preventing Legionnaire's disease


What is Legionnaires disease?

A harmful strain of bacteria called legionella pneumophila causes Legionnaires disease. It can also cause Pontiac fever and Lochgiolhead fever. It's caused by inhaling small droplets of water from contaminated sources containing a significant quantity of legionella bacteria. 

This can be contracted within 2-10 days of exposure to the bacteria and can be caught by anyone. However, it is more likely to affect people who are susceptible because of age, illness, low immunity or smokers. There are approximately 400 confirmed cases of Legionnaires disease reported in the UK each year. 

Where is legionella found?

Legionella is commonly found in natural sources, such as lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. It enters our water system through the water mains supply. 

It is harmless to drink and cannot be passed between from person to person. 

The main areas of risk are where the bacteria can multiply and increase to dangerous levels and then be spread, for example, in spray from showers and taps. 

Temperature is critical to Legionella bacterial growth and it thrives in temperatures between 20ºC and 45ºC. It feeds on biofilm in tanks and pipework or any sources of water in your home. 

Other sources include: Air conditioning units, artificial ponds, whirlpools, hot tubs, fountains and swimming pools. 

What precautions can I take?

The risk of contracting the disease is low but it is good practice to take the following precautions:

  • Flush through showers and taps for 10 minutes following a period of non-use, for example, after you have been on holiday or if a room is not in regular use. 
  • Keep all shower heads and taps clean and free from a build up of limescale, mould or algae growth. Regular bleaching and disinfecting every three months will help sterilise and kill any bacteria.
  • Tell us about any problem such as, water temperature fluctuations, debris rust, or discolouration to the water flowing from your water outlets. 

As part of your landlord's annual service and maintenance checks to your heating and hot water system, engineers will check the hot water setting and flow rate to ensure there is a reduced risk of Legionella bacteria forming. These settings are selected for your safety. We strongly advise that you do not change them. 

What should I do if I think I may have contracted Legionnaires disease?

The symptoms of Legionnaires disease can be very similar to other illnesses and can include a cough, fever, chills, aches and shortness of breath. 

If you begin to feel unwell, or if you suspect that you or someone in your home has contracted Legionnaires disease, contact your doctor immediately. Should you be diagnosed by a medical professional as having contracted Legionnaires disease, contact us immediately so that we can take the appropriate measures. 

Last Updated on Thursday, February 2, 2023