Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease the facts

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What is legionella?

Legionella is a form of bacteria which can cause a number of diseases, the most serious is Legionnaires’ disease.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection caused by inhaling legionella bacteria.

Who is at risk?

Everyone is susceptible to infection from Legionnaires’ disease but some people are at higher risk, particularly people over 45, smokers and heavy drinkers, people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, diabetes, lung and heart disease or anyone with an impaired immune system.

Where do legionella bacteria come from?

Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, such as rivers and ponds; however the conditions are rarely conducive for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in man-made systems such as hot and cold water systems, especially where water is maintained at a temperature which will encourage bacterial growth.

How is Legionnaires’ disease contracted?

Legionnaires’ disease is normally contracted by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols) suspended in the air which contain the bacteria. Drinking water is highly unlikely to cause infection.

Further information.

You can find out more information about Legionnaires’ disease and Legionella at the Health & Safety Exceutives website. http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/

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