Legionellosis is the collective term given to the range of illnesses caused by Legionella bacteria. These include the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ Disease, as well as Pontiac Fever and Lochgoilhead Fever. The latter two have never been recorded as fatal but, as with any illness, certainly aren’t pleasant!
Am I At Risk Of Contracting Legionnaires Disease?
Legionnaires’ Disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. A deep lung infection to which everyone is susceptible. There are some predisposed risk factors that may increase your chances of contracting the disease. These include;
- Heavy smokers and drinkers
- Increasing age (45+)
- Impaired or compromised immune system
- Those suffering from chronic respiratory disease
- Males apparently more susceptible than Females
If you’re wondering how you would contract the disease, then take a look at our FAQ section.
What Are The Symptoms Of Legionnaires Disease?
Well the symptoms are actually quite similar to having a nasty case of flu. You could expect to suffer from one or more of the following;
- High temperature, fever and chills
- Muscle pains & aches
- Diarrhoea & vomiting
- Changes to your mental state, such as confusion.
Once the bacteria begin to infect your lungs then you may also experience signs of pneumonia such as;
- Chest pains
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent cough
The incubation period (time it takes from getting the infection to symptoms presenting) can be anywhere between two and nineteen days. It’s important that if you do develop these symptoms you seek advice from your GP as soon as you can.
Why Does Exposure To Legionella Often Go Undetected?
Exposure to Legionella often goes undetected and one of the primary reasons for this is that treatment is cheaper than testing. If you were to present at hospital with the symptoms above, then it is more than likely you will be treated with a course of antibiotics such as erythromycin or clarithromycin. Testing a patient specifically for Legionnaires’ disease is far more expensive and time consuming. Testing will only occur should there be specific reason to suspect Legionella is the cause. For instance, if many people in a localised area suddenly all showed the same symptoms, there could be good reason to suspect an outbreak.
Life after exposure to Legionnaires Disease
While the current fatality rate is around 10%, It is shown that around 90% of people confirmed as having contracted Legionnaires’ Disease will go on to make a full recovery after antibiotics. The actual time it takes to recover will vary from person to person and is dependent on various factors. Some may start to feel better after only a few days while for others it can be many weeks or months to get back to feeling normal.
As with other infectious disease further complications can develop. Septic shock unfortunately accounts for around 10% of fatalities in otherwise healthy people. This is where toxins produced by the bacteria can damage the small blood vessels around vital organs. This can lower your blood pressure and affect your heart’s ability to get the blood where it is needed.
How can we prevent Legionnaires Disease?
Legionnaires’ Disease is a notifiable disease under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) This means that if a doctor diagnoses the condition, they must tell the local authority under The Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010. The authority will launch an investigation to determine the source of infection and put in place any necessary measures to reduce the risk.
Legionnaires’ Disease is wholly preventable and it is important that if you are responsible for any type of water system you have an assessment conducted. This will identify any risks and give clear practical advice on how to reduce those risks to an acceptable level.
Talk To The Experts
If you would like free, impartial advice on how to manage the risks associated with your water system and legionella testing, or would like to know more about our water sampling service, then get in touch with one of our friendly and knowledgeable team by giving us a call on 01872 276375 or clicking here.