The quality of our water is crucial to our health and well-being. One of the main problems we face in this context is the presence of legionella in drinking water and the associated legionnaires’ disease.
In this text we would like to provide you with some important information about legionella in water and the associated risks. We will also present measures you can take to minimize the risk of Legionella contamination and protect your health.
Legionella in water – how do they develop?
There are several ways that Legionella can get into our plumbing. Among other things, contamination occurs through soil water entering the drinking water or during the processing of the water. However, legionella can also enter the water pipe through the entry of seepage water, rainwater or wastewater.
The development of germs on biofilms
Biofilms are layers of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that grow on surfaces such as pipes, faucets or drains. These can occur in both natural and man-made environments.
Bacteria, in particular, have a high capacity to form biofilms and can thus pose a serious problem and contribute to the spread of disease. It is therefore important to remove biofilms regularly and keep surfaces clean to minimize the growth of germs.
Propagation under certain temperatures
Because Legionella thrives primarily in warm and humid environments, it can also grow particularly well in hot water. It is important to note that Legionella bacteria only proliferate under certain conditions and therefore may only be present in some parts of a water supply. Monitoring the water temperature and the pH value of the tap water is therefore essential to prevent legionella infestation.
Transmission through water droplets
Legionella pneumophila can enter the lungs through inhalation of water vapor, causing illness. Particularly in facilities such as hotels, hospitals and swimming pools, Legionella bacteria can grow in water systems and become airborne through showers or hot tubs.
People with weakened immune systems or respiratory diseases are particularly at risk, as they have a higher risk of developing Legionella-caused illnesses. It is therefore important to regularly monitor water quality and take measures to minimize the growth of Legionella in water to reduce the risk of illness.
How to recognize a legionella infection
The presence of Legionella in the air can lead to an infection also known as legionellosis. Common signs of Legionella infection can include pneumonia, fever, and even urinary tract infections.
There are two forms of Legionella infection: Legionnaires’ disease is the more serious form and leads to serious problems such as pneumonia. Pontiac fever is a milder form that is associated with flu-like symptoms such as headache, muscle aches, and fever. If you experience any of these symptoms or believe you may have been exposed to Legionella, contact your physician for further advice.
Prevention, diagnosis and treatment
Preventing Legionella disease begins with regular cleaning and disinfection of water systems to minimize pathogen growth. The installation of filters can also help. If you have standing water for a long time, you should always make sure that it is heated to at least 60 degrees. In this way, the pathogens can be safely killed.
If Legionella disease is suspected, a diagnosis can be made by analyzing samples from the affected water or air system. Treatment for Legionella disease usually consists of administering antibiotics, but it may also be necessary for affected people to receive supportive therapies to relieve symptoms such as fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.
However, it is best to avoid Legionella illness in the first place by being aware of how Legionella is transmitted and how to prevent it.
FAQ: How do legionella bacteria develop in water pipes?
In the following section you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions on the subject.
When do legionella form in the water pipe?
Legionella can form in the water pipe if the water stands in the pipe for a long time and has a temperature between 25 and 45 degrees Celsius. An example of this is water pipes in buildings that have not been used during an extended period of vacancy. During this time, biofilms can form on which germs can grow.
How to prevent legionella?
One way to prevent Legionella is to raise the hot water temperature to at least 60 degrees Celsius to kill Legionella. It is also important to regularly clean and descale all faucets and showerheads to minimize the growth of germs on a biofilm.
How does legionella infestation occur?
In principle, a legionella infestation can occur in any building. The risk increases when the water in the pipes stands still for a long time and has a temperature between 25 and 45 degrees Celsius. Biofilms can form in this environment, on which germs such as Legionella can grow.
One way to prevent a Legionella infestation is to regularly flush water pipes and replace the water in the pipes to minimize germ and pathogen hazards.
When do legionella develop in the shower?
Legionella can develop in the shower if the shower head and the water pipe have not been used for a long time. In this case, biofilms can form on which germs such as Legionella can grow. When the water is then turned on again, the germs can be released in the form of aerosols and inhaled, which can lead to infections.
To minimize the risk of legionella in the shower, the shower head should be cleaned and descaled regularly. If legionella infestation is suspected, it may also be advisable to temporarily use a legionella filter or to impose a shower ban until the problem has been corrected.
Conclusion: It is better to prevent an infection than to cure it
Legionella disease can be very unpleasant and in some cases life-threatening. Since an infection is often accompanied by non-specific symptoms and is difficult to diagnose, it is all the more important to take preventive measures.
Particular attention should be paid to cleaning and descaling faucets and shower heads, as well as increasing the hot water temperature to at least 60 degrees Celsius. Regular flushing of water lines and replacement of standing water can also help minimize the growth of germs in the lines.
An infection with Legionella can not only lead to health complaints, but also impair concentration and productivity. Therefore, it is better to take preventive measures than to have to deal with illness-related consequences later.