Legionnaires' Diseases Cases Rise By 82% In Past Year

The latest figures show a huge rise in the number of Legionnaire’s disease cases – almost double the number of cases were reported in 2018 compared to 2017

A few years ago, the trend showed a slowdown and overall, the annual number of laboratory-confirmed Legionellosis cases in England & Wales was lower in 2016 (359) than in 2015 (390), according to documents published by Public Health England.

But the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases rose steadily up to 448 in 2017. In 2018, in the number of reported/notified cases of Legionnaire’s disease was 814 – a rise of 82% on the previous year.

The figures were reported to the national surveillance scheme via regional colleagues, laboratories and statutory notifications, and include all confirmed and non- confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

And with hot tubs, swimming pools, and drinking water supplies on site providing ideal breeding grounds for Legionella, the advice is to ensure regular maintenance and cleaning of equipment to avoid an

But what exactly is Legionella and how does it lead to Legionnaires’ disease? The Health & Safety Executive advise: “Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by the inhalation of small droplets of contaminated water containing Legionella. All man-made hot and cold water systems are likely to provide an environment where Legionella can grow.”Legionnaires' Diseases Cases Rise By 82% In Past Year

One reason behind the rise could include more reporting, says Dr Richard Russell, medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation. He explained: “The infection itself causes symptoms of pneumonia: fever, cough and breathlessness.

“Sputum production is often variable. The diagnosis of Legionella pneumonia is made using a specific blood test which detects antibodies to the bacteria in
the blood. One of the key issues with an increase in diagnosis of this infection is perhaps that doctors are looking for it more often.

“The guidelines into the management of pneumonia do recommend testing for Legionella, but this guidance is not always followed. Thus, an increase in diagnosis may follow if doctors actually test more. This is not a bad thing as previously reported rates may be under-representative of the true level of infection.”

You can find HSE’s code of practice on the control of Legionella in water systems at hse.gov.uk.


March 7, 2019

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