December 7, 2020 jzacher 0 Comments

Smithsonian Magazine recently published an article discussing rising rates of legionella exposure over the last two decades. While the United States has some of the safest drinking water in the world, due in large part to the passage of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, exposure to legionella continues to be an issue across the country.

Legionella accounts for about 60% of waterborne disease outbreaks over the last decade, now the leading cause of outbreaks. While almost 10,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported to the CDC in 2018 experts suggest that the real number may be significantly higher, potentially reaching between 52,000 and 70,000 cases.

In noting that cases continue to rise, in settings from hotels to Flint, the article suggests that both an aging population and aging infrastructure are major drivers. It also suggests that climate change may also be a factor. Longer, warmer summers strain cooling systems and increased rainfall may increase the presence of legionella in drinking water. The article also emphasizes that no federal law targets Legionella contamination of water supplies and building water systems.

The Smithsonian also highlighted important connections between exposure to legionella and COVID-19: some health experts express concern that a prior infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 could make a person more susceptible to Legionella and more pressing, building shut-downs have left water stagnant in pipes creating an ideal environment for the growth of legionella bacteria.

The article recommends important tactics to stop the spread of legionella bacteria: flushing water pipes, controlling temperatures and using disinfectant and chlorine within a system. [1]

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[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-reports-legionnaires-disease-are-rise-united-states-180976089/

Smithsonian Magazine highlights rising legionella cases was last modified: March 23rd, 2021 by jzacher

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