According to research presented yesterday, May 18th, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, windshield wiper fluid can be a source for contracting Legionnaires’ disease.
Legionella bacteria, which can cause people to contract a deadly form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease, was isolated in almost 75% of school buses tested in one Arizona school district.
“Washer fluid spray can release potentially dangerous numbers of these bacteria into the air. These results suggest that automobiles may serve as a source of transmission for Legionella infections,” said Otto Schwake, the doctoral student at Arizona State University (ASU) who presented the research.
Windshield wiper fluid is not typically associated with contracting Legionnaires’ disease, but this project came about after a series of epidemiological studies found that motor vehicle use can be associated with an increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease. One of these studies suggested that almost 20 percent of all Legionnaires’ disease cases in the United Kingdom, that were not hospital-acquired or outbreak cases, were actually linked to automobile windshield washer fluid.
“This study is the first to detect high levels of Legionella in automobiles or aerosolized by washer fluid spray,” said Schwake. “While potential transmission of a deadly respiratory disease from a source as common as automobile windshield washing systems is significant, the study also points to the fact people can be exposed to pathogens – particularly those occurring naturally in the environment – in previously unknown and unusual ways.”
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