Control of Legionella during the COVID-19 pandemic

The NICD (National Institute for Communicable Diseases) released a statement on 12 June 2020 advising the public on the risks of Legionella infections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their statement serves as a reminder that many facilities, including hotels, office buildings and other places of occupancy have been either been fully or partially closed during the lockdown period. Because Legionnaires disease is also a respiratory illness, this does present concerns for public health. The NICD, more commonly known during the Listeriosis outbreak and now the COVID-19 pandemic also manages the collection of data and research for Legionella control here in South Africa. It is through this statement that we find that we must remind our clients of the need to take note of this update.

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Legionnaires disease is an infection of the lungs that is a severe form of pneumonia. A person can develop Legionnaires disease by inhaling water mist contaminated with Legionella bacteria. The mortality rate in infected individuals ranges between 10 – 20%. Symptoms are non-specific and may include a flu-like illness, followed by a dry cough, which progresses to a lower respiratory tract infection and pneumonia. NICD.

One can become infected by breathing in water droplets containing the Legionella bacteria. These water droplets are created by spraying or bubbling air through the water in which the bacteria are present. The water contaminated Legionella affects many man-made water systems including:

This alert highlights the importance of maintaining water systems and Legionella controls during the COVID-19 pandemic and performing maintenance of water systems prior to buildings being put back into use in order to minimise the risk of Legionnaires’ disease. We are able to offer our Legionella risk assessment audits as well as the Legionella water tests that will verify the cleaning and maintenance process before hotels and buildings can be recommissioned. These risks should be considered in addition to the controls that need to be put place to manage the COVID-19 risks. As a reminder, you can access our COVID-19 opening and longterm management procedures here. 

The Control of Legionella during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Keeping the water systems clean. Meaning lime-scale and dirt free. Removes the food that Legionella bacteria feed on.
  • These systems need to be kept in good condition (rust free). This also minimises their food source.
  • Maintaining water temperatures below 25° C (77° F) for cold and above 52° C (125° F) for hot water at all times significantly reduces the risk of high numbers of bacteria.
  • Preventing water from stagnating. Keeping water flowing through the system means no time for growth.

Where are the areas of risk in a hotel?

  1. Coldwater system – tanks, pipes, taps that carry the water. Can’t cool water, but can insulate/ separate hot/ cold pipes.
  2. Hot water system – geysers, tanks and pipes. Hot water reticulation system NB!!
  3. Dead ends, stagnant water tanks

Where are aerosols created?

  1. Showerheads
  2. Evaporative coolers/ cooling towers
  3. Jacuzzi’s
  4. Fountains
  5. Sprinklers
  6. Water misting coolers
  7. Swimming pools

Get in contact with us to book an audit or water tests for your property before opening procedures take place.

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ADRIAN CARTER

Hygiene Survey Manager