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No holiday for Legionella
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No Holiday For Legionella

by John A. Herbert
20 January 2012

downtime is a perfect time for Legionella

Building harbour a particularly dangerous, potentially fatal bacteria named Legionella Pneumophila more commonly known as Legionella.

It can cause a potentialy fatal illness known as Legionnaires' Disease. It is contracted by inhaling water droplets (aerosols) that cause lung infection.

Legionellosis, the term for all ilness caused by the Legionella family, includes at east two flu type illnesses, Pontiac Fever, and Logihead Fever. And another derivation, Legionella Longbeachae, a soil based bacteria, causing Legionnaires' Disease by inhaling potting soil or compost dust.

The aqueous variety grows inside building water systems, and breeds in stagnant and warm water areas between 25-35 deg C, the temperatures often found in cooling towers, and domestic water systems. In Hong Kong and South China, often the 'cold' water system is warm water due to heating effect from the tropical climate.

no holidays for legionella

Legionella Pneumophila is an aqueous bacteria, in nature it is commonly found in rivers and streams, and piped in to our buildings through the utility water system. Given the opportunity, it can infest and breed inside manmade hot and cold water systems, cooling towers, domestic water systems, air conditioners, irrigation systems, spa baths, humidifiers, and other water systems.

Now at this time of year we are all preparing for the Chinese lunar new year holiday, when most organisations shutdown for an extended holiday period.

All across China and Hong Kong, cooling towers will fall silent for a week or more of rest. Water heaters, water tanks and piping will lie idle awaiting our return. In China most businesses are closed for 10 days or more. That's a risk because Legionella will not be taking any holiday, given the right environment it will breed.

legionella no holidays

Take Legionella Precautions

Particularly during the holiday period, whilst you are away, the water systems and cooling towers are warm and motionless, a prefect breeding ground for Legionellae. Some quick tips:

  • have a consultant create planned shutdown / start up routinue
  • drain down water systems if possible;
  • before operating idle cooling towers and similar equipment, disinfect the piping and tower;
  • flush all water tanks and pipes;
  • avoid stagnate water in domestic piping;
  • dont inhale, avoid breathing any aerosols during flushing, clean and disinfection procedures;
  • beware of utility work, Legionella outbreaks are associated with the disturbance caused by plumbing or water utility works;

  • About the Author

    John A. Herbert is internationally recognised Legionella expert, and often cited in the media for his experience auditing buildings to reduce the risk of Leigonella Infection. He has worked in Asia for the last 20 years, he is REA, and BEAM Professional.

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