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‘Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink’

Businesses such as large offices, dental practices, hairdressers, beauty salons, offices, pubs, gyms and hotels really need to take action before reopening their premises in order to avoid spreading the Legionella bacteria, says PHE.

The guidance says there should be ‘regular flushing’ of water systems to stop bacterial growth, and premises should undertake a detailed review of all aspects of their water management system before reopening amid the continuing coronavirus lockdown.

What is Legionella and why is Legionnaires’ disease, which it causes, a risk?

Legionella bacteria is commonly found in water. The bacteria thrive and multiply where temperatures are between 20°C and 45°C and nutrients are available. Below 20°C and above 60°C the bacteria are dormant and do not survive.

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal type of pneumonia, contracted by inhaling airborne water droplets containing viable Legionella bacteria. Such droplets can be created, for example, by hot and cold water outlets; atomisers; wet air conditioning plant and whirlpool or hydrotherapy baths.

Anyone can develop Legionnaires’ disease by ingesting the bacteria and it is fatal in 10% of cases. The elderly, smokers, alcoholics and those with cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory or kidney disease are at more risk.

Anyone with any concerns about their water system when they re-open their premises should call in an expert to get it checked out.

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