Information Centre

What Is Legionnaires’ Disease, and Am I At Risk?

Legionnaires’ disease can be extremely harmful to health and, in the worst case, fatal to those who catch it. Knowing the warning signs of the deadly disease and how it can be prevented following the proper Legionnaires’ disease prevention training course is essential—understanding how the bacteria forms can help to mitigate the chances of catching the illness. Find out more about Legionella, how it forms and can spread, and its effect on the body. 

What Is Legionnaire’s Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is the most serious disease contracted by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila. Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal to a person’s health, especially to children, the elderly, and those with ongoing illnesses.

What Are the Symptoms & Treatment?

The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can be life threatening if left untreated. The illness can be masked as common illnesses like the flu, which has similar symptoms. 

  • Fever/ chills
  • Continuous cough
  • Aches & muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhoea

In the very worst cases, the illness can develop into pneumonia. If caught and diagnosed early, the disease can be treated with the antibiotic, Erythromycin. How long the infection goes untreated can increase the risk of developing severe symptoms that may require hospital treatment. Fortunately, the disease is not transmissible between people, so if you contract the illness, you don’t need to worry about the risk of spreading it to others. Particularly nasty cases of the disease can result in respiratory failure, kidney failure, and potentially septic shock as the bacteria takes hold of the body. There is currently no vaccine available for Legionnaires’ disease.

How Does Legionella Bacterium Form?

The Legionella pneumophila bacterium was first identified in the USA in 1977 following a pneumonia outbreak the previous year. The first case of the disease was traced back to a convention centre where water was being sourced from a poorly maintained system. Factors that lead to Legionella growth are:

  • Burst water pipes
  • Construction
  • Biofilm
  • Poor water quality
  • Limescale & sediment
  • Changes in water pH level 
  • Water temperature & pressure changes
  • Stagnant water

It is essential to monitor the water quality and ensure the temperature is maintained to prevent any bacteria from being able to form. The best way to keep Legionella at bay is to keep any cold water cold and hot water hot. Allowing the temperature to drop to a mid-level will create the perfect environment for bacterial growth, particularly if the water is stagnant. Stagnation occurs when water isn’t able to flow consistently, and so a biofilm of bacterial growth will form on the surface. This is common in natural environments such as ponds, lakes, and canals. If the water cannot flow, the temperature must be low enough to prevent the biofilm from forming. 

Legionella bacteria also can naturally occur in water systems like ponds and rivers without being a threat; the conditions have to be just right for the bacteria to be caught from natural sources such as these.

How Does the Disease Spread?

Legionnaires’ disease is most commonly caught by inhaling water droplets infected with Legionella bacteria. The time it takes for symptoms to appear can range anywhere between 2-10 days. You are more likely to catch Legionnaires’ disease if the water temperature in your water system is between 20-45°C, as this is the optimum temperature for the bacteria to grow. The risk can also be increased from other water sources, such as cooling towers and re-circulated water. There are particular environments where Legionella bacteria, in addition to water, such as rust, limescale, and other organic matter. Legionella is prevalent and likely to be contracted when traveling or in hospitals. 

Our Legionella Training Course

When dealing with such a serious health risk as Legionella, it is crucial to stay informed about how and why Legionnaire’s disease spreads and how it can be easily prevented. Here at NATAS, we offer a Fully Certified Legionella and Legionnaires’ Disease Awareness Course, which provides all the necessary training to ensure your water sources remain safe to use. Upon completion of the course, you will receive your ROSPA approved and HSE Recognised Legionella Awareness Certification. The course can be completed online, and our expert trainers will be on hand via phone and email to answer any questions you may have about the course. We also offer a range of other courses, including duty to manage asbestos, online working at heights training, and our BOHS P402 courses.  

What the Course Includes

Our Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease training course covers all necessary information regarding Legionella bacteria. You will learn how it spreads and how you can prevent it from becoming a health risk. The course is split into 5 manageable sections, which will take approximately 60 minutes to complete. You can go back and revisit previous sections if you need to. Each section is as follows:

Section 1 – What is Legionella?

Here you will learn about Legionella pneumophila and the potential health risks from exposure.

Section 2 – Your Legal Responsibilities

Gain an understanding of good water quality, your legal responsibilities, and how to monitor & control Legionella.

Section 3 – Where can Legionella be found?

Learn about the everyday environments in which Legionella bacteria can be found.

Section 4 – Legionella Risk Assessments

Understand how to carry out necessary risk assessments.

Section 5 – Controlling the Risks

Learn how to manage the risks of Legionella and understand the control limits.

Reduce the Risk of Legionnaires’ Disease With NATAS

By completing our Legionella online awareness course, you will be equipped with all the knowledge you need to prevent a Legionella outbreak in your water systems. The course is helpful for those in construction and water management industries where you may be required to carry out work with or near stagnant water, water systems, or plumbing. Knowing the risks and how they can be prevented is essential to reducing the health risks of Legionella pneumophila. Enrol on the course today to learn how to maintain clean and safe water.

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