Warning of legionnaires’ disease after lockdown eases

STROUD District Council’s environmental health team is contacting businesses that have been shut during the Coronavirus pandemic with advice on how to identify the risk of Legionella so they can safely re-open when Government guidance allows.

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria that can be inhaled into the lungs via small droplets of water that are suspended in the air.

The bacteria forms when water has been allowed to stagnate and could affect hundreds of businesses across the Stroud district that were closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Everyone is susceptible to infection, with an increased risk in people over 45 years of age, those with underlying health conditions and smokers.

Simon Pickering, Stroud District Council’s chair of Environment Committee said: “Every business that has a water supply and has been closed must take action before re-opening.

“There is an increased risk in businesses that use aerosol forming equipment such as taps, showerheads and hoses which can produce water droplets small enough to be easily inhaled, for example hair dressers, gyms, sports clubs, camp sites and car wash operators.

“SDC’s officers are contacting businesses now to offer advice and support, and will be carrying out random sampling of water systems on business premises.”

Under the current government advice businesses including shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and spas will be able to re-open from 12 April.

Any business operator, employer or person in control of a business premises has a legal duty to maintain its water systems and must take the right precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to legionella.

Before you re-open your business you should implement a suitable weekly flushing regime using fresh mains water as follows:

• Flush through simple hot and cold water systems with fresh mains water for several minutes.

• Increase the temperature of hot water systems to above 60°C if possible and drawing it through to all hot water outlets (a temperature over 60°C will kill Legionella bacteria over time)

• If you have a business in which showers are in use, you should also clean the shower head regularly. This doesn’t just mean the parts you can see, you should dismantle the shower head and clean it both inside and out with a recognised product to help combat any scale, debris or bacteria.

• Flush through larger hot and cold water systems (including those with tanks, showers, calorifiers) for a significant period of time

• Ensure that the system is capable of delivering water at safe temperatures by checking temperatures ahead of reopening

• Undertake a chemical or thermal disinfection of the water system or microbiological sampling for Legionella bacteria if required.

If the building has been unused for a long period of time, there have been any lapses in flushing regimes or where additional risks have been identified, professional cleaning and disinfection may also need be undertaken.

There is more information here: bit.ly/2PTZgAl

The HSE has more detailed guidance here: bit.ly/30tbce2

Comprehensive guidance about the risks of Legionnaires’ disease as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has been produced by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) and is available to download at: bit.ly/3veaxLE

Businesses that need any further information can contact Stroud District Council Environmental Health Team: environmental.health@stroud.gov.uk

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