Legionellosis is an infection caused by legionella bacteria which live in the environment in soil, compost and potting mix, and in water systems like hot water cylinders and spa pools. You can become infected from breathing in dust, soil, or water containing legionella bacteria.
Symptoms include a flu-like illness and can include fever, cough, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. Most people with legionellosis can be treated by their GP with antibiotics, but occasionally people need treatment in hospital. You can’t get legionellosis from another person.
Legionellosis is a notifiable disease, so all confirmed cases are investigated by public health in order to identify the source of the infection.
Most people’s natural immunity stops them from getting ill when exposed to Legionella bacteria.
While you can get legionellosis at any age, most cases occur in people over 50 years old. People who smoke, ex-smokers, heavy drinkers and people with a compromised immune system are at a higher risk.
Most legionella infections in New Zealand come from exposure to soil, compost and potting mix. Commercial products have warnings on the bags and provide advice about avoiding legionella infection.
When working in the garden, protect yourself:
· wear a face mask and gloves
· open bags away from your face
· work in a well-ventilated area
· dampen soil/compost before use
· wash your hands when you’re finished.
Legionella bacteria cannot survive in water at 60°C or above. Ensure your hot water cylinder is set to at least 60°C and use mixing valves to ensure a safe temperature at the tap to prevent scalding.
Spa pools can become contaminated with legionella bacteria as the water temperature in a pool is not high enough to kill the bacteria. Careful maintenance and chlorine treatment of the water is advised.
For more information, visit Ministry of Health website.