What Is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Do you love gardening? Lots of people do since gardening can be fun, exciting and useful.

However, it’s important to observe proper practices as well as observe safety measures against exposure to potentially harmful organisms.

As the rains cease, homeowners, as well as lawn care and landscaping professionals, must protect themselves from acquiring a serious infection as they start spring planting. Legionella longbeachae, which is a potentially fatal strain of Legionella bacteria, can be found in compost heaps, soil conditioners, potting mixes, composted manures and mulches.

Legionnaires’ Disease – What Is It?

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella bacteria. It got its name after the American Legion Convention in 1976 in Philadelphia wherein several participants became ill with pneumonia. Later on, the bacteria that caused such illness were isolated and identified as Legionella pnuemophila. It was further determined that it spread from the air conditioning system of the hotel where the legionnaires were staying.

Most infections are caused by Legionella longbeachae and Legionella pneumophila species. The disease’s incubation period can be between 2-14 days after exposure.

In 2000, the largest Legionella outbreak happened in the Melbourne Aquarium. Here, 125 cases were diagnosed and four people died. Later on, it was discovered that this was caused by Legionella pneumophila found in the cooling towers of the Aquarium.

Mode of Transmission

Legionnaires’ disease is acquired by inhaling aerosols containing the bacteria. It cannot be passed from one person to another or from an animal to person. Also, it cannot be acquired from washing in or drinking water that is contaminated with the bacteria. However, it can be passed from hand to mouth and through ingestion, which makes smokers very vulnerable.

Who Are at Risk?

Not everyone can acquire Legionnaires’ disease; only those with compromised immune systems are at risk. These will include those who are more than 65 years old, who have chronic lung disease or diabetes, who are suffering from any health condition that suppresses the immune system, smokers and heavy drinkers.

What to Watch Out for

Symptoms are somewhat similar to a severe flu. These include high fever, severe headache, dyspnea or shortness of breath, diarrhea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, dry couch, and confusion.

Legionnaires’ disease can only be diagnosed by specialised laboratory tests on sputum, blood or urine samples. Once you are diagnosed, you will be prescribed antibiotics that are very effective against the bacteria.

Prevention Tips

To minimise the growth of these deadly bacteria, regulations and guidelines are in place in Australia. For instance, gardeners are advised to use a face mask so they won’t inhale the detrimental aerosols. They must also wear gloves whenever they perform gardening tasks. Moreover, they need to keep the mix damp and always wash their hands after handling it.

If you are not sure about the correct ways to deal with gardening tasks, your best option would be to hire a fully trained team to get your gardening done for you.

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