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Legionella are a species of bacteria that cause a potentially fatal form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease. The information below will explain what Legionnaires’ disease is, how to reduce your risk getting the disease and symptoms to look out for.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is potentially fatal and is caused by legionella bacteria. Infection is caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria. The disease cannot be passed from one person to another.

Everyone is potentially at risk of infection but some people are at higher risk – i.e. those over 45 years of age, smokers and heavy drinkers, those suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease and people whose immune system is impaired.

Where are legionella bacteria found?

Legionella bacteria are common in natural water courses such as rivers and ponds. Since the bacteria are widespread in the environment, they may contaminate and grow in other water systems such as hot and cold water services. They are killed by high temperatures.

What do I do if I think I have contracted Legionnaires disease?

If you develop these symptoms and you are worried that it might be Legionnaires’ disease, see your doctor. If you are diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease please contact us.

What can I do to reduce the risk of Legionella?

We recommend you run all your taps and your shower for a couple of minutes each week to prevent the build up of harmful bacteria. We also recommend you clean your shower head every month to prevent the build-up of limescale.

How do people get it?

The agent that causes Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterium called Legionella pneumophilia. People catch Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water suspended in the air, which contain the bacteria.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are similar to those of flu, i.e. high temperature, fever and chills, cough, muscle pains and headache. In a severe case, there may also be pneumonia, and occasionally diarrhoea, as well as signs of mental confusion. Legionnaires’ disease is not known to spread from person to person.

For more home safety information, please read our Home Safety leaflet.

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This page was last updated on 29/01/2024