What is legionella? It is the causative agent of legionellosis. In particular, this bacterium leads to pneumonia. Learn more about it.
Pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria is a severe clinical condition with a high mortality rate. This leads to promoting actions that can prevent the spread of legionellosis, in order to reduce its incidence.
This microorganism was discovered not long ago, in the 1970s, after an outbreak that occurred in the United States. This epidemic developed during a convention and thanks to this it was possible to reveal the method of transmission. Read on to find out.
What is Legionella pneumonia?
The main causative agent of legionellosis is Legionella pneumophila. It is a bacterium with an affinity for stagnant water and, within the human body, for the lungs.
The microorganism grows and forms colonies in warm waters with little circulation. There he finds his environment suitable to develop freely.
Then, from its reproduction, it acquires the ability to move through the air in aerosolized particles. Consequently, it manages to float from the stagnant and warm water through the ventilation ducts of the buildings, either with or without air current.
Once there, the next step is to enter a human host. During the initial outbreak in the United States, people acquired the germ by inhalation from the air conditioning vents of the place where they were gathered.
However, not everyone can end up with Legionella pneumonia. It is more common among people with risk factors exposed to a conducive environment.
Risk factors for the spread
In the first instance, the person must be exposed to a source of Legionella. This happens in particular situations and explains, to some extent, what must be done to prevent the spread of Legionnaires’ disease.
Tourist places, such as hotels or convention centers, are conducive environments. Especially those buildings that combine large ventilation systems with interconnected swimming pools and saunas.
So are sites with shared toilets. The example par excellence are public pools or very crowded in clubs. Hence, it is a pathology that must be prevented, especially in the summer.
Those interned in clinics are not exempt, whatever the cause of their hospital stay. Probes, respirators, and other materials can become contaminated through the air ducts of these buildings.
Second, we have to mention the individual conditions that increase risk. People most likely to develop Legionella pneumonia include the following:
- Chronic lung patients with COPD or asthma.
- Immunosuppressed or immunosuppressed.
- Oncology patients.
Measures to prevent the spread
The prevention of the contagion of legionellosis has two edges. On the one hand, there are the hygiene measures that the owners and managers of buildings with water mirrors must take. On the other hand, we have personal recommendations to individuals who could be exposed to the bacteria.
Knowing that Legionella grows in warm waters, saunas and whirlpools are favorable places for the reproduction of the bacteria. For this reason, in hotels and tourism and leisure centers that have these elements, sanitary measures are key.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests a water management plan that includes specific actions. This includes, broadly, the following:
- Design circulation of the liquids so that there is no stagnation.
- Regularly clean swimming pools, saunas, whirlpools and recreational pools.
- Disinfect the areas around the water.
In times like summer, the risk of contracting legionellosis increases due to visits to swimming pools, saunas, or hot tubs.
Since air flows in buildings must be regulated to prevent the spread of legionellosis, measures have been studied that tend to reduce the spread of the bacteria. You must disinfect structural air conditioners, for example, before putting them into operation and you need to check them regularly.
In cars there is no problem, since this air conditioner does not use water. But, on the other hand, the mist humidification systems that some businesses install for the summer do need attention.
Ideally, for people who vacation in large hotels with pools, they should certify that it is a company that complies with sanitary standards. The same if you go to clubs or restaurants with artificial humidification.
At home, the standards are easier to meet than at facilities because volumes are smaller. It is a basic disinfection and prevents the water from remaining stagnant.
Attention in the summer!
Preventing the spread of legionellosis becomes relevant in the summer season. We have more assistance to water sources and we use more sites with air conditioning. Therefore, it is essential to take extreme measures at this time of year.
Some responsibilities are business, hotels, convention centers, bars, clubs and offices. Others are personal and individual, especially among people with risk factors.
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