Facility Dude

Legionnaires’ disease: Keeping your facility safe

By Amy Myers
Aug 07, 2014

Facilities Management, Safety and Risk Management, Industry News

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An increased prevalence in outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease has created need for facility managers to take precautions against the spread of bacterial infection. 

Hotspot facilities

Hospitals, senior living and long-term care residential facilities are the most prone to experiencing Legionnaires' disease outbreaks. In fact, according to the Legion Law Journal, almost all of the most recent reported cases of the disease occurred in such institutions.

These facilities are at particular risk due in large part to the high concentration of senior occupants - an age group that is more susceptible to the disease than younger generations. Along similar lines, the suppressed immune systems many hospital patients exhibit as a result of illness or drugs makes them more likely to contract the bacterial infection.

Keeping prepared

The added susceptibility of healthcare facilities means that FMs in these settings must be extra diligent in their building maintenance and implementing specific protocols to control and respond to legionella in the event of an outbreak.

As the bacteria are water-borne, proper maintenance of plumbing fixtures and any water storage systems should be of paramount importance. While the Department of Veteran's Affairs acknowledged in a report that due to the natural occurrence of the bacteria, eradicating legionella from water supplies completely may not be possible, but it can be controlled within the facility through stringent testing, application of disinfectant and maintaining higher water temperatures in storage tanks to kill the bacteria.

The VA also highlighted the role that healthcare professionals in a diagnostic capacity can play in controlling the spread of Legionnaires' disease. Because the disease presents with symptoms very similar to pneumonia, proper diagnosis and, by extension, treatment can be delayed in some instances. In response to this, the VA report suggested that pneumonia that appears severe, or that coincides with a patient's former hospital stay, should be initially treated as a possible Legionnaire's infection, and that the appropriate antibiotic treatment should be started pending the official diagnostic results to minimize the potential for harmful contact with other patients.


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