There’s arguably nothing as good as fresh water to drink, to splash onto your face to wake yourself up in the mornings, and to shower or bathe in. Think of stagnant water, however, and the picture changes drastically, doesn’t it? Not only does stagnant water not look very appealing, it can also be harmful to health. Sometimes, it is obvious that water is unsafe, but at other times you may be at risk of illness and not even be aware of it.
What dangers could be posed by stagnant water?
Bacteria prefer to breed in areas that are unclean and are often within a certain temperature range. For example, the legionella bacteria capable of causing Legionnaires ’ disease and Pontiac Fever loves to multiply in a temperature range of 20-45 degrees Celsius. Cold water should therefore be kept below 20 degrees Celsius, and hot water should be above the upper end of the range.
Stagnant water is ideal for breeding of bacteria of many types. Sometimes, you can tell water is stagnant because it may give off a certain smell, or may be green or otherwise discoloured and dirty. You certainly wouldn’t drink it, but you may get some on your skin and accidentally ingest it that way, instead.
Is it safe to go abroad on holiday?
While we are largely aware of the risks of stagnant water at home, there could be bacteria, mosquitoes, and other insects unique to other countries that we may encounter if we go abroad. To stay safe, make sure you follow these rules:
- Only drink bottled water
- Stay clear of swimming in lakes or pools
- Never drink from any unknown water source
- Don’t walk in or touch any area of stagnant water
- Always wash your hands, to wash off anything that may be there that you cannot see
Mosquitoes can potentially cause many illnesses. We’re all aware of the Zika virus, but other illnesses may include malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever. Mosquitoes can breed more readily around stagnant water sources, as can many other insects and types of bacteria.
Leptospirosis and Weil’s disease
You’ve probably heard of Weil’s disease before, but you may not be as familiar with the term leptospirosis. They are two names given to the same disease, which is a bacterial infection. Most humans develop it after drinking contaminated water, or encountering water that has been urinated in by rats. If the water passes into the body through a cut on the skin, this is enough for the bacteria to get into the system to cause the illness.
Thankfully, cases of leptospirosis are very rare in the UK. Scotland has only had 14 cases in the period between 1996 and 2006. England and Wales recorded the highest number of cases each year in that period, with between 22 and 54 cases per year. Northern Ireland also had a very low number of cases, with 16 cases in the entire period.
Preventative measures are ideal for making sure no one is at risk of catching the disease to begin with. If you suspect you may have been exposed, see your GP for advice immediately.
Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia that can be fatal if not treated with antibiotics. It can also be more dangerous for the elderly, and for those whose immune system is already weakened. It is often mistaken for flu in its early stages, and even when it progresses, symptoms are akin to those that may indicate pneumonia. Identifying the infection so proper treatment can be given is paramount, and so the source of the infection can be found. This is vital as others might also be at risk of being ill.
While there is a risk of legionella bacteria multiplying in stagnant water, and any hot or cold water system that is not kept cold enough or hot enough to inhibit the growth of the bacteria, preventative measures can be taken to ensure this does not occur. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides ample support and information for business owners, landlords, hotel owners, and all other individuals with a responsibility to manage legionella within both hot and cold water systems. By taking action, keeping records, and treating the water where necessary, there should be little opportunity for legionella bacteria to multiply within any part of a water system.
What to do if you’ve contracted an illness from bacteria in stagnant water
If you have been ill within the last three years, and you think there is evidence your illness was caused by bacteria within stagnant water, you should seek legal advice to find out whether that was the case, and whether that means someone was negligent.
For example, did you go abroad and fall ill because of the poor health and safety standards in place where you were staying? Did you stay in a UK hotel, bed and breakfast establishment, or other location overnight and developed Legionnaires’ disease, possibly as part of a larger outbreak traced back to one location?
If so, or if you simply want some advice on whether a claim could potentially be possible, Accident Advice Helpline is here to provide the input you are looking for. Stagnant water can be dangerous to health, even if you never have any intention to drink from it or wash with it. Bacteria can get into the body in several ways, as you may now be aware. If negligence was the reason why you became ill, someone else may be to blame. So, call now on 0800 689 0500, or ring our team on 0333 500 0993 from your mobile if you wish. This gives you the best chance to make a no-win, no-fee* claim if you can do so, with the assistance of one of our lawyers. They’ve handled numerous claims for illnesses and injuries for more than 16 years, and they might be able to help you as well.