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How can you avoid legionella?

A recent outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in New York, which claimed the lives of 12 people, proves that the disorder continues to be a serious threat. With the consequences including long-term health problems and even death, do you know what you need to do to prevent legionella in your workplace?

What is Legionnaire’s disease?

Legionnaire’s disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria that grows in warm water and is contracted when droplets of contaminated water are inhaled.

The infection causes air sacs in the lungs to become inflamed and fill with liquid, suppressing the lungs’ ability to transport oxygen to the blood and around the body. Among the symptoms reported are higher fever, muscle aches and chills, and once the infection sets in it can lead to persistent coughing, chest pains and breathing difficulties.

What happened in New York?

Cooling towers in the Bronx’s Opera House Hotel were contaminated with legionella, which was circulated round occupied buildings by air-conditioning systems. Along with the 12 fatalities, 128 people were sickened, with the outbreak halted when cooling towers in the affected area were disinfected.

What is the scale of the legionella problem?

Over the last decade or so, there have been an average of 300-400 reported cases of Legionnaire’s disease each year, with a mortality rate of between 10% and 12%. HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems harbouring legionella have caused some high-profile deaths in recent years, particularly in hospitals. In the five years to June 2012, the Health and Safety Executive reported that 88% of legionella outbreaks were as a result of failings in risk assessment and scheme of control.

How can air conditioning systems be made safe from legionella?

Those responsible for the wellbeing of building occupants must ensure they have a comprehensive programme of planned HVAC maintenance in place, with equipment regularly checked and cleaned when necessary.

One of the most successful solutions to indoor air quality problems is the application of ultraviolet C (UVC) light within HVAC equipment. UVC technology has been around for many years, having been used in hospitals to help stop the spread of tuberculosis during the early 20th century.

Gibbons Ultraviolet Solutions offers an advanced UVC cleaning solution for HVAC systems. The flexible system, called CoilCare®, applies UVC light to the cooling coil of an air handling unit, removing and preventing the build-up of contaminants.

This flexible system can be used in almost all occupied spaces such as commercial offices, hotels, healthcare buildings and food production facilities and can be installed in just a few hours by our engineers.

If you’re concerned about legionella and want to find out more about how Gibbons Ultraviolet Solutions can help, call Colin Hardman on 07940 544206 or email colin@gibbonsgroup.co.uk for expert advice.

HVAC Services, Ultraviolet Solutions

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