Legionella infections are most commonly associated with cooling towers, hot tubs, pools, showers, and decorative fountains. However, exposure to legionella bacteria can occur through other, more obscure means. Legionellosis (Legionnaires’ Disease) manifests when aerosolized droplets containing legionella bacteria make their way into a patient’s lungs.
Legionella bacteria typically is inhaled in through water droplets, but contaminated soil has been found to cause Legionnaires’ Disease on numerous occasions. In Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Japan, more attention has been paid to the potential risks of acquiring Legionnaires’ Disease or Pontiac Fever from contaminated potting soil. In New Zealand, there was 121 reported cases of Legionnaires’ Disease in 2014, and 51 of those reported cases were in contact with potting soil and compost. The problem isn’t just relegated to those previously stated countries. The first reported cases in the U.S occurred in 2000, when a 45 year old California man died from Legionnaires Disease, and two other cases of Legionnaires’ Disease were reported in Oregon and Washington. The potting soil in these cases was found to contain legionella bacteria.
A visit to the dentist’s office can also put one at risk for contracting Legionnaires’ Disease. A 1995 study published in Applied And Environmental Microbiology took water samples from 28 dental facilities located in 6 states, and found that 68% of the surveyed dental water lines contained legionella. The amounts varied widely for each water line, but the researchers noted that the percentage of dental water systems with legionella was higher than the percentage of home faucets and other water sources found to have legionella bacteria.
In 2010, the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency issued a report published in the European Journal of Epidemiology that outlined the potential hazards of being exposed to legionella bacteria through the mist from windshield wipers. The report states that up to 20% of community acquired sporadic cases of Legionnaires’ Disease could be tied to the use of non-treated windshield washer fluid. The report also states that professional drivers are five times more likely to acquire Legionnaires’ Disease than the average person.
A person can also potentially inhale legionella bacteria during a visit to their grocery store’s produce section. This is due to the spray misters that regularly water the produce. There was a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in 1990, traced to a Louisiana Winn-Dixie, that caused 34 total cases of Legionnaires’ Disease and two deaths. Tests ultimately determined the mister to be the culprit.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.