Legionnaire’s disease – why you need to know about it

14 January 2022 | News

First things first, what is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia that everyone is susceptible to and comes from the presence of Legionella bacteria in water.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE),

‘Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, e.g. rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic).’

What can happen if you’re exposed to legionella bacteria?

People can contract Legionnaires’ disease through inhaling small water droplets (the types that float in the air) which contain the bacteria.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to the flu and Covid-19, but include a high temperature, chills, a cough and muscle pain – a full overview is here. However, unlike the flu and Covid-19, Legionnaires’ needs to be treated with antibiotics.

Whilst a lot of this is pretty scary stuff, it’s worth remembering that although there have been some high profile cases of Legionnaires’ disease recently, including David Sassoli’s passing, they make the news because it’s unusual.

However, there are ways home and property owners – especially people renting out properties, both small and large, e.g. AirBnB hosts, where properties can be left vacant for extended periods of time – can prevent the bacteria growing and presenting a problem.

At Hero Labs, not only does our Sonic device protect against leaks and water damage – incidents which property owners and landlords can often be concerned about – we also have, as one of a list of forthcoming features we have in the works to help our users better understand and manage their water use, ways to monitor the situations which can cause legionella bacteria.

Our Sonic recognises when two of the factors which contribute to legionella have been identified – a raise in water temperature and a lack of water being used, leading to stale water. 

If a device recognises that no water has been used within a building for an extended period of time an alert will be sent to the owner of the Hero Labs system, to alert them to the risk so they can remedy the situation. 

In some cases all that’s needed is for water to be flushed through the system, such as running a shower, to move any standing water that’s become stale.

It’s worth remembering too, that with many offices being left for months during the Covid-19 outbreak, there’s a higher risk of a Legionella outbreak. The HSE has guidance for office and premises managers here.