What is Legionella? Disease control and prevention

Legionella disease is a lung infection that can also be referred to as severe Pneumonia. It's a very serious disease, however, it’s rare.

Why is it called Legionella?

Legionella is the bacteria that cause the infection, hence, Legionnaires’ disease is also known as Legionella disease.

Causes and Common Sources of Infection

The disease can be contracted the moment one breathes in tiny droplets of water containing the bacteria that causes the infection.

The bacteria are usually found in water and any other moist conditions usually associated with water systems, but they can also survive in soil which makes the bacteria thrive in almost every type of setting. Warm water is also one of their habitats. But when it comes to contracting the infection larger places are usually under a threat (unlike homes). Some of the areas are like hotels, hospitals, or offices this is where the bacteria spreads and multiplies as it gets into the building's contaminated water system. Larger buildings give the bacteria more room to multiply and spread easily.

How It Spreads

There are many ways the bacteria spread and even though the disease is airborne, it does not spread from person to person. The bacterium can travel in vapour, steam, or water droplets and find its way into your lungs as long as your nostrils catch any of the droplets that contain the bacteria. The following are some of the places the bacteria can spread and grow:

  • Hot tubs and showerhead
  • Cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Decorative fountains or water features
  • Swimming pools
  • Birthing pools
  • Hot water tanks or heaters
  • Large plumbing systems

The infection can also be transmitted in other ways apart from the ways listed above that have to do with the inhalation of droplets of water, the following are some of them:

  • Soil: Since the bacteria can also survive in soil, gardening can also pose a threat because once a person has come in contact with contaminated soil he or she can get Legionnaires' disease. The use of contaminated potting soil can lead to catching the bacteria.
  • Aspiration: If you aspirate water containing legionella bacteria, you can develop Legionnaires' disease. Say in an event where you have choked and contaminated liquids accidentally enter your lungs by inhaling.

As part of the Busters Group, we have access to a team of water hygiene experts. Through proper risk assessment and management, you can ensure that your water supply is safe and reduce the risk of a Legionnaires Disease outbreak. We have experience working in high-risk areas, with complex systems, and with vulnerable residents and building users.

If you would like to get in contact with us for Legionella testing the get in touch today.

People at Increased Risk


Smoking has always made the lungs vulnerable to lung infections and anything that can harm or damage the lungs. This places the lungs at a higher risk when the legionella bacteria have attacked the lungs.

Have a Weakened Immune System

This comes about when a person has been sick for a very long time already or has other diseases and infections that may affect the immune system like HIV/AIDS and sometimes it may have to do with a person’s diet when a person is not having the right kind of meals the body may not be as strong as it supposed to be.

Have a Chronic Lung Disease or other Serious Condition

For a body that is battling another disease, Legionella disease may be overwhelming as the disease is fatal already. Some of the diseases that weaken the body are Cancer, Diabetes, and Kidney Failure these are diseases that will leave the body defenceless when a threat arises as their medication overpowers the immune system.

Are 50 years of age:

Most elderly people are in hospitals and places where they are being well taken care of, these are also places where the bacteria spreads easily making the people vulnerable to infections.

Signs and Symptoms

Legionnaires’ disease is an infection that targets the small air sacs in the lungs and the signs and symptoms are almost hard to miss. They will show within 2 to 10 days. Most of the Pneumonic kind of sickness have similar symptoms and may include:

  • High Temperature, fever, and chills
  • A dry cough
  • Muscle pains
  • Loss of strength
  • Headaches

Running short of breath, chest pains when breathing, and coughing up greenish stuff may follow if the disease has not been treated. This may happen the first week and some patients have experienced nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pains, and vomiting. Once these symptoms have started showing it's advised to seek medical help for easy recovery as well.


Respiratory failure

This is when the lungs are failing to give out enough oxygen to the whole body and on the other hand, they are not able to take out enough carbon dioxide from the blood.

Septic Shock

This is when there has been a sudden drop in blood pressure and vital organs such as the kidney and the brain are not receiving enough blood. In this scenario, the heart automatically comes to the rescue by increasing the volume of blood pumped but it fails to keep up with the tasks and ends up with the blood flow reducing more.

Acute Kidney Failure

This is when the kidneys are failing and dangerous levels of fluids accumulate in the body due to the loss of the kidney's inability to filter waste.


The one thing that is very important when it comes to preventing Legionnaires disease is ensuring that buildings are not leaving room for the spread and growth of the bacteria. This can only be achieved when building owners are strict when it comes to reducing the risk of Legionella by maintaining building water systems and implementing controls for Legionella.

Water Management Programs

Looking at the Water Management program pinpoints conditions that are more of a danger to the environment and the surroundings. Upon realizing these factors then introduce steps that could be followed to help reduce the growth and spread of the bacteria in the building water system. This process must be done often and it requires monitoring.

  • Establish a water management program team

When drafting your team, just like any other recruitment, members are to be picked by a certain skill they possess to develop and implement your Legionella water management program. In some cases, you may need to train your in-house personnel or maybe consider hiring professionals with specific environmental and Legionella experience. Look within your team, employees, partners, and outside experts and find out who can deliver the needed skill to develop the most effective program.

  • Put the whole idea or concept on paper

Style your building water systems using flow diagrams and a written description, so that you are all on the same page and none of your team members is lost. Pay attention to detail from where the building connects to the municipal water supply, the distribution of water, all the way up to where hot tubs, boilers, or water heaters and cooling towers are placed.

  • Legionella breeding ground

Detect a place where Legionella may settle, multiply and transmit in your building water systems, these could be areas where water temperature could stimulate Legionella growth. It may also be areas where water flow might below.

  • Apply, Control Measures and Monitoring

Once you have identified areas that may provide a hazardous condition implement your water management program that offers protection to the building's water distributing system. Launch control measures and limits for each hazardous condition, monitoring plan may follow. These control measures are there ensuring that your building’s water systems have the power to limit the growth and spread of Legionella. And that on its own it can offer prevention such as heating, adding disinfectant, or cleaning.

  • Establish ways to intervene when things are not going according to plan

A backup plan is always an idea in case there is a hiccup, plan the best actions that may be taken in such events, and how the program will still be running.

  • Make sure the program is running as designed and is effective

These could be actions that you can come up with just to ensure that everything is in order and going according to plan. Just the way you had planned and designed. The design shouldn’t just stop there also figure out ways and things that could be added to upgrade your water management program and offer maximum protection and support.

  • Keep Records

It is essential to keep records of everything from the beginning, I’m sure by now everyone knows the importance of documenting all the activities. Keep in touch with building occupants, employees, and colleagues, say a similar event has occurred, it’s easier to go back to update or review your water management program.

  • Update Update Update

It's always good to update information or designs as it provides and gives better service and flaws are also worked on. Update the description of your building water systems and if you happen to have a new team train the team as well.

Legionella Bacteria and Hot Tubs:

Legionella strives in warm water, such as the water temperatures used in hot tubs. And these warm temperatures make it hard to keep disinfection, such as chlorine, at the strongest level to fight germs like legionella.

What causes Legionella in water?

More than half of legionnaires disease outbreaks are caused by drinking water. People get legionella bacteria mostly when exposed to contaminated water coming from faucets, showerheads, and ice machines.

How do you test for Legionella in water?

You'll have to call a legionella testing service to sample water, and they will use either use swab sampling or bottle water sampling. Bottle sampling is the most commonly used and consists of collecting water from portable water fixtures or from warm water containing chemical equipment and permits the qualification of the numbers of legionella per specific Volume of water.

How is Legionella tested?

The urinary antigen test (UAT) is the most commonly used laboratory test for testing legionnaires disease. It detects a molecule of legionella bacteria in urine, if the test is positive and the patient has pneumonia, then the patient has legionnaires disease.

Can you smell Legionella?

Yes, it's possible to Smell legionella. Your water may have a distinct "rotten egg" or sulfur smell when it's contaminated.

Can Legionella be cured?

Yes, it can be cured by antibiotics.

What is the best treatment for Legionnaires disease?

In as much as it is very hard to cure Legionnaires disease since it is a fatal disease. Many antibiotics are highly effective against the disease. Just to mention the very effective ones; the Macrolides (azithromycin), and the quinolones (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, moxifloxacin, gemifloxacin, trovafloxacin)

How often do landlords have to test for Legionella?

For rental properties with water systems that could possibly a potential legionella risk, landlords are supposed to test for legionella every two years, or just before a new tenant enters the building.

What diseases can you get from a dirty bathroom?

There are many diseases one can get from a dirty bathroom, these include sexually transmitted diseases, viral infections, gut infections and many more.

How long does it take for chlorine to kill Legionella?

A study was conducted which showed that Legionella is resistant to Chlorine.

Can you get Legionnaires disease more than once?

It is very much possible to get it more than once since there are many different strains of Legionella bacteria. It is therefore important to stay safe do not put yourself at any risk and for the elderly and people at risk of getting the bacteria upon seeing the symptoms, it is important to visit a doctor so that he can tell whether it is Legionella disease or not.

What is the recovery time for Legionnaires disease?

The recovery time may vary depending on the patient there are risk factors that could also play a huge role in the determination of the time it can take a person to make a full recovery. If the patient was healthy and did not have any health condition. For patients who were not under any threat, they are expected to respond to treatment within three to five days. For those that may have some health conditions or any hiccups, recovery may take as long as 6 months.

What is a legionella certificate?

A legionella certificate is one that allows an individual to provide a compliant legionella assessment service. This means that the risk of legionnaires disease contamination can be determined in a rental property.

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