Ironically, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has closed several of its buildings in Atlanta because Legionella bacteria have been found in their water systems. These bacteria likely grew because of the pandemic shutdown. Legionella, which grows in warm or stagnant water, causes a deadly form of pneumonia. Left untreated, Legionnaires Disease can kill a person within weeks, and when treated properly can still take more than a year to recover from. The CDC says Legionella bacteria is a problem that people across the country need to be on the lookout for, especially now. The plumbing in its buildings have been closed for months and could provide a perfect breeding ground for water borne pathogens like Legionella.
Last year, 4,294 cases of Legionaries Disease were reported to the CDC. So far this year, 1, 813 cases have been reported. It is not clear yet whether the pandemic has worsened the problem because people are not gathering at large hotels or working in huge factories as much. But as our economy begins to open, surveillance of businesses’ potable water systems will be necessary. As people return to work and start travelling again, hospitals need to think about the possibility of Legionella. Poorly maintained cooling towers and under-sanitized potable water are two major causes of Legionella growth and are likely to be the catalysts for more contractions as the pandemic shutdown comes to an end. Just ask the CDC themselves.
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