The coronavirus (COVID-19) is not the only disease that educators and parents are worried when students return to school. Early and prolonged closure of school buildings has also increased the risk of legionella.
Legionella is the bacterium that causes legionnaires’ disease and has been found in several schools near Dayton, Ohio and a Pittsburgh suburb.
The bacterium was discovered during routine testing as buildings were prepared to reopen. Officials say the findings should serve as a warning to other schools.
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Legionella can form in stagnant water, from the showers in the locker room to the drinking fountains to the sinks in the classroom that have been left unused longer than usual. due to the pandemic.
Bacteria spread in fog when these water sources are turned on, and if inhaled, it can cause legionnaires’ disease.
“It’s a cough, fever, shortness of breath and, unfortunately, it’s a lot like COVID-19,” said Dr. Alan Tage, an infectious disease expert at the Cleveland clinic. “It can be a little difficult to distinguish.”
Younger healthy people exposed to legionella are less likely to get sick than older people and those with weakened immune systems.
Legionnaires’ disease is usually treated with antibiotics, but can be fatal.
“It’s not something people should be afraid of, it’s just respect,” Tage said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for reopening buildings after prolonged shutdowns. Officials said these guidelines, including testing and flushing systems, could be applied to schools. These are steps taken by many schools to ensure the safety of students and staff.
The best way to prevent legionella growth is to keep water flowing through flushing systems and letting water flow from each faucet, fountain and shower at regular intervals. If this is not done during the shutdown, schools should be active in water testing.
Hot tubs or spas that have been confined to gyms can also be a risk for legionella.
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