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Legionella and you….

What is Legionnaires’ disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia. Anybody can catch it, However, certain things make it more likely that you will experience a more severe form of the infection. These include:

  • being 50 years of age or over – 83% of the confirmed cases in 2013 involved people over 50 years of age
  • smoking, or having smoked heavily in the past (a recent study has shown that smoking cannabis may also increase your risk)
  • drinking alcohol heavily
  • underlying medical conditions, such as diabeteskidney disease, or a pre-existing lung condition
  • having a weakened immune system – for example, people with HIV and AIDS or cancer

Legionnaires’ disease is rare in the UK. In 2013, only 284 people were reported to have the infection in England and Wales. Of these cases, 88 people (31%) were exposed to the infection while travelling abroad.

Legionnaires’ disease is treated with a course of antibiotics. How long you need antibiotic treatment for will depend on how severe the condition is.

Cases of Legionnaires’ disease arising in England and Wales usually peak between July and September.

How do people get it?

People usually catch Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in small droplets (such as those produced in shower spray or spray taps) of contaminated water. The infection isn’t contagious and can’t be spread directly from person to person. You cannot get Legionnaires’ disease from drinking water. In domestic properties the risk of Legionnaires’ disease is deemed to be low due to minimal storage and high turnover of water.

Your risk can be kept low by following these guidelines

Reducing the risk of legionella in your home

Possibly the biggest risk is when you have been away from the property for more than a week or so e.g. on holiday elsewhere.  Some things you can do include

  • Simply run all the hot and cold taps (a very unlikely source in ant even) for a minimum of 2 minutes.
  • Flush the shower head with through with warm water for minimum of 1 minute if it has not been used for more than a week. To do this, remove from holder before switching on the shower, then hold the shower head down over drain to lessen risk of inhaling sprayed droplets.
  • Flush the toilet twice to circulate fresh water through the system and empty the cistern
  • Shower spray heads should be dismantled and cleaned of scale and debris on a regular basis (every 3 months is recommended).
  • If you have water storage tank and you notice the lid is missing or damaged exposing the stored water to contaminants. Contact Merthyr Valleys Homes and report this as a repair.