Is Your Building at Risk from the Legionella Bacteria

Many health and safety risks face facilities managers. The spread of legionella bacteria is one of them. Outbreaks impact the health and wellbeing of staff. It also puts visitors at risk and leads to lower productivity. Waterborne bacteria, as well as airborne viruses that impact indoor air quality, need immediate attention. Testing kits give managers quick results of the presence of this lethal bacteria.

The Dangers of the Legionella Bacteria

Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, infects the lungs. It can also spread to the heart and other organs, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a result, complications include septic shock, respiratory failure, and acute kidney failure. All of which are life-threatening.

Symptoms include muscle pain, fever, coughing headaches, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Treatment often includes a hospital stay. However, immediate treatment means less severe complications. The elderly, smokers as well as those with chronic lung conditions or weakened immune systems remain at higher risk of complications.   

Legionella bacteria live in ponds and other bodies of water, but the risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease from these natural sources is low. Indoor exposure is more common. 

The legionella bacteria gets into the water of drinking fountains, hot tubs, and grocery store misters. It also circulates through HVAC systems and in the mist generated by cooling towers. Legionnaire’s disease is not transmitted person-to-person. The bacteria enter the body by drinking infected water. It is also in tiny droplets of water that enter the lungs when we breathe. 

Exposure to Waterborne Bacteria

Early symptoms occur two to 10 days after exposure to legionella bacteria. For example, a high fever, chills, and headache are indicators of exposure. Within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of these symptoms, patients have a cough, chest pain, confusion, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Confusion and shortness of breath may occur as well. 

A urine antigen test or blood test detects the disease and antibiotics control it. The disease can lead to complications such as septic shock or respiratory and kidney failure. Prevention methods include cleaning and disinfecting pools, spas, and building water systems.

Testing for Legionella Bacteria   

Building managers must prepare for any potential outbreak. To this end, preparation should include inspections, a management plan, education, and testing for bacteria. If you suspect that legionella bacteria is making building occupants sick, act now. Get a Legionella testing kit and find out.

In short, Legionella testing is key to dealing with the spread of the Legionella bacteria. A Legionella Screen Check is a way to identify the bacteria in collected samples with a full report returned in two to three weeks. Staff sends water samples collected from the site to a CDC-certified lab within 24 to 48 hours.