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The Risk Of Legionella Post-Lockdown

Legionella disease is a pneumonia-like illness that causes serious infection on the lungs. Everyone is at risk of infection and the disease can be fatal in approximately 20% of reported cases according to  W.E.T.

This is a very serious disease and we suspect that there will be an increased risk of infection when returning to work post-lockdown.

The Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC) believes there could potentially be an additional serious public health concern surrounding Legionella in commercial buildings once the current COVID-19 trading restrictions are removed. This is because in many cases the water systems may not have been used or maintained during lockdown, becoming the ideal environment for the Legionella bacteria to grow.

 

Who is at risk

While everybody is at risk of infection, some people are more vulnerable. These include:

  • Those over 45 years of age
  • Smokers and heavy drinkers
  • Elderly people
  • Those suffering from respiratory or kidney diseases
  • People with weak and impaired immune systems

 

High-risk areas

  • Stagnant water
  • Poorly designed water systems
  • Water temperatures between 20°C and 45°C

Many commercial buildings have seen little to no use over the lockdown period, with unused water systems forming an ideal breeding ground for the Legionella bacteria. When these water systems are used again post-lockdown, it can transport the bacteria to users and cause a fresh outbreak.

 

What to do

  • Risk assessments
  • Disinfecting water systems
  • Take water samples

The APHAC is strongly advising that commercial property owners, landlords and employers prepare for the possibility that Legionella bacteria may have entered their water systems and to take action. Monthly monitoring of water systems is advised normally, however it is unlikely that they have been able to go ahead during lockdown, so it should be a high priority before staff return to work. They have been advised to contact plumbers and heating engineers to carry out risk assessments and take precautionary action.

As a minimum requirement to reduce the risk of legionnaires disease, the system should be fully flushed out from all outlets, especially showers. However, looking at system design and the eliminating “dead legs” where the bacteria is likely to form is the most effective way of lessening the possibility of infection.

Consider the use of hygienic re-circulated system elbows, fittings that combat both the build-up and growth of legionella bacteria in cold water systems as well as minimising dead legs in hot water systems by allowing the hot water to pass through the fitting. These can be easily found on our online product catalogue as well as page 12 of our price guide. The most simple rule in legionella prevention is to keep hot water hot and cold water cold, most effectively achieved through the use of pre-insulated MLC pipe working with a secondary recirculation system.

 

To summarise, Legionella disease is at higher risk of spreading due to the increased likelihood that Legionella bacteria has multiplied in untouched water systems during lockdown. It has therefore been advised that commercial property owners, landlords and employers contact plumbers and heating engineers to carry out risk assessments before their staff return to work and take precautionary action.

If you do need any additional advice or support regarding reducing the risk of a Legionella Disease outbreak, then please don’t hesitate to get in contact with our team. You can contact Multipipe on 01245 227 630 or send us an email to info@multipipe.co.uk.

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