Legionellosis is a collective term used to describe pneumonia-like illnesses caused by or related to legionella bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease is the most serious of these illnesses, which also include Lochgoilhead and Pontiac fever. Potentially fatal, Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that can be contracted by anyone, although some individuals face a much higher risk of infection. This includes:
- People aged 45 upwards
- Heavy drinkers
- Sufferers of chronic kidney or respiratory diseases
- Individuals with impaired immune systems
Where Legionnaires’ disease originates
The Legionella pneumophila bacterium and varying related bacteria are fairly common within natural water sources like lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, although they are usually present there in relatively low concentrations. They may, however, also be found in purpose-built systems like, for example, whirlpool spas; domestic or industrial hot water systems; evaporative condensers, or cooling towers. Favourable conditions may cause bacteria concentrations to rise dramatically or cause bacteria to be suspended in the air within tiny water droplets. Such conditions include:
- Growth encouraging water temperatures (20 to 45 degrees C)
- Creation or spreading of breathable droplets by water outlet or cooling tower generated aerosol
- Stored or re-circulated water
- Presence of sludge, fouling, scale, or other sources of growth nutrients
The disease is contracted by inhaling water droplets containing the bacteria.
Legionella bacteria infection symptoms
Symptoms of legionnaires’ disease and similar infections include:
- Fever/ high temperature
- Muscle pains
- Diarrhoea (occasionally)
Legionellosis and the law
Employers, spa operators, and others responsible for environments in which the potential of infections by legionella bacteria is present, are legally required to protect employees, customers, and so forth, against exposure to such bacteria. This involves implementing safety precautions and procedures to ensure bacteria levels are kept at minimal rates; monitoring of bacteria levels and, if necessary, reducing levels by taking appropriate remedial actions.
Claiming for compensation
Depending on where and how a person was infected with legionnaires’ disease, they may be entitled to claim for work injury, travel, or public liability compensation. If you caught legionnaire’s disease at work, in a spa, or while on holiday within the last three years, talk to one of Accident Advice Helpline’s friendly advisers to get your compensation claims process started.
No-win, no-fee compensation
Calls to the Freephone helpline on 0800 689 0500 can be made any day and around the clock. Advisers will keep any details provided to them in complete confidentiality, and all claims are processed on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Date Published: January 28, 2014
Author: David Brown