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Legionnaires Disease

What is Legionella?

Legionella is a bacterium that can cause Legionellosis. Legionellosis refers to two clinically distinct illnesses; Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by bacteria belonging to the genus Legionella, with Legionella pneumonia being responsible for most infections. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, headache, cough, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and delirium. In some cases, it can be severe and cause fatalities.

What is Pontiac fever?

This is a type of fever caused by Legionella species, specifically, Legionella longbeachae. Symptoms of Pontiac fever include headache, fever, chills and muscle aches.

How do you get Legionellosis?

You can get the Legionnaire’s disease by inhaling aerosols containing this bacterium. Aerosols are small airborne droplets of water that can carry bacteria and other particles. This means that the Legionella species that cause Legionnaires’ disease live in water systems growing at water temperatures between 30 to 50 degree Celsius. These bacteria can be found in cooling towers, showers, spas, fountains, hydrotherapy pools and hot water systems. Inhaling dust or soil particles from potting mixes during gardening can lead to the introduction of Legionella longbeachae into the human body as this bacterium lives in soil and potting mixes.

What to do to protect yourself from Legionellosis?

Regular cleaning and disinfection of water systems like cooling towers, pools, showers and hot water systems will prevent contamination of these systems by Legionella. Dampening pot mixes, wearing gloves and dust masks when handling potting mixes and washing hands afterwards can protect you from getting Pontiac fever.

Useful links

Legionellosis -  www.healthdirect.gov.au/legionnaires-disease#symptoms

www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/legionellosis

Legionella regulations and guidelines - www.sahealth.sa.gov.au

Reducing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease - www.sahealth.sa.gov.au