Keeping You and Your Hosepipe Safe
The humble hosepipe can sometimes harbour harmful levels of Legionella if not looked after and used properly. Renowned health expert Dr Susanne Lee, Director of Leegionella Ltd, gives homeowners some handy tips and hints to keep them, and their hosepipes, safe.
I was saddened to hear of a death from Legionnaires’ disease, reportedly following the use of a hosepipe which had been left outside in warm weather and which was contaminated with high levels of Legionella. While a worrying case, it’s important everyone knows the facts about Legionella and the disease it can cause. Here are some common questions.
What is Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease is a rare form of pneumonia; we call it an atypical type of pneumonia because along with respiratory symptoms people infected often become very ill, very quickly. They may also get symptoms of diarrhoea and sometimes confusion too. It also does not respond to the normal type of antibiotics given for pneumonia.
How do you get it?
The usual route is from inhaling very small aerosols which come from sprays formed when turning on a shower, tap, flushing a toilet, or using a spa pool, hot tub or other activities which cause a spray of water - such as a hosepipe.
Large outbreaks have been caused by poor maintenance of water cooling systems typically used to cool large public or commercial buildings, or a manufacturing process. Some very vulnerable people - such as those with swallowing difficulties - may get it by aspirating water i.e. when taking a drink, the water goes down the wrong way and enters the lungs instead of the stomach.
How common is it?
Legionnaires’ disease is a rare disease. In England and Wales there are usually less than 500 cases a year of which around half have acquired it while travelling abroad. That equates to about 0.00045% of the population who are infected each year in England and Wales (250 people out of 56 million).
People who have underlying health issues or diseases are most at risk - for example, those with diabetes, heart conditions, immunosuppressive illnesses or those undergoing chemotherapy. The risk increases as you get older too (over 50s plus).
Here are some simple tips to keep you safe:
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