Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast early last week, disrupting the lives of millions and leaving a brutal path of destruction. While there are direct and serious consequences of such a storm, hurricanes also can influence Legionella propagation in buildings in affected regions. While Legionella growth may seem like a minor concern relative to the enormous destruction caused by storms like Sandy, results can be deadly.
How can a major hurricane contribute to Legionella propagation? Power outages often accompany major storms, and when electronic water heaters and other components of hot water systems fail, water temperatures can fall below the threshold at which Legionella is killed. Also, when buildings are evacuated or left abandoned due to storms, stagnant water can provide a favorable environment for Legionella growth. Storms like Sandy can also allow Legionella to infiltrate water systems. If the destruction of a storm damages the water system in a home or building, it can allow bacteria enter the system. Legionella is a ubiquitous organism in water, so it is not unlikely that it could enter a water system if a disruption occurs.
Millions of people have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. Major storms like Sandy can create favorable conditions for Legionella to infiltrate water systems, and also to propagate. It is important for building managers to be deliberate in making sure Legionella growth in the wake of a storm does not lead to a dangerous situation. If the risk is high, they must take steps to decontaminate their systems to prevent outbreaks. In the wake of destructive storms, it is important to take initiative and make sure the safety of the public is not further threatened.