The number of confirmed cases of Legionnaire’s disease in Edinburgh has now reached 36, mostly in the south-west of the city. One person has already died and there are another 44 suspected cases.

Legionnaire’s disease is not contagious but is a severe pneumonia-like illness resulting from exposure to Legionella bacteria. As is already clear, it is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and all groups are susceptible to infection. According to the HSE, some groups of people are at a higher risk, including:

  1. children under the age of five
  2. those over 45 years of age
  3. smokers and heavy drinkers
  4. people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  5. anyone with an impaired immune system

Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, for example in rivers and ponds. However, outbreaks of the illness generally result from exposure to Legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth. Examples of these include cooling towers, evaporative condensers and hot water systems used in all sorts of workplaces, including shower systems.

Employers who have systems which create mist or spray should have these tested, and employers should ensure all maintenance work id documented and signed off.  Risk assessments should be in place, and although The HR Booth cannot carry out testing, we can support with risk assessment documentation and give guidance and advice in this area.

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