Legionella Linked to More Death, Illness

Our headline says it all: Legionella, which causes a lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease, is back with a vengeance.

iStock_000026952702SmallProbably one of the worst cases occurred in August when at least six residents of a Reynoldsburg, Ohio retirement community died due to an outbreak of the illness.

During that month, there were 39 cases linked to the retirement community, and those affected included residents, visitors and one employee, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Testing confirmed the bacteria was in an air-conditioning cooling tower, and in the water used for drinking, showering and cooking.

The investigators were not sure what caused the legionella growth, but drinking and showering activities were restricted until the problem was resolved, according to the Franklin County Public Health spokeswoman Mitzi Kline.

The legionella topic is no stranger to our blog. It’s with good reason that legionella is a common subject in our posts, as the presence of legionella bacteria in air conditioning systems, hot water tanks, plumbing systems and cooling towers can lead to outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.

Our concerns about legionella are confirmed whenever we see legionella cases popping up in the news.

In August, legionella was also discovered in a cooling tower on the Carnegie Mellon University campus, according to The Tartan, Carnegie Mellon’s student newspaper. The bacteria were identified during routine testing, prompting a thorough cleaning as well as an increase to monthly – from bi-annual – testing to prevent the bacteria from growing.

Legionnaires’ disease is often most detrimental to the elderly or others with compromised immune systems. Complications from the disease can result in respiratory issues and kidney failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In another case, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that four prisoners at the Pennsylvania state prison contracted Legionnaires’ disease; tests confirmed the legionella was present in the prison’s cooling towers.

Whenever legionella growth does occur, it’s often attributed to accumulated algae, mold or bacteria within a dirty cooling tower mixing with the tower’s warm water; the combination is a perfect environment for bacterial growth.

The system in which the bacteria grow can aerosolize the bacteria into the air, infecting occupants and spreading the disease.

We commend the facility managers in these cases for stepping up their inspection procedures, and thoroughly cleaning their facilities’ cleaning towers. But we’d also like to recommend that they and all facility managers take a more serious stance on cleaning cooling towers regularly.

You can read more about how to reduce legionella in cooling towers in our guide, “Are Your Cooling Towers Clean.”

Cooling tower maintenance is no longer the time- and labor-intensive chore it once was. Goodway changed that when we introduced our Cooling Tower Vacuum.

Cooling tower maintenance used to require a complete shut-down, but with the Goodway Cooling Tower Vacuum there’s no need to drain the tower – you can clean it while the tower is still on line. Cooling demand is not interrupted, nor is the comfort of occupants.

Next Steps:

One comment

  • And if you want to stop the debris getting into the cooling tower in the first place then talk to Permatron in the USA or RAB Specialist Engineers in the UK. Prevention is always better than the cure.

    October 25, 2013

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