The problem is that people across the country need to be vigilant, says the CDC. Bacteria that can cause deadly pneumonia grow in warm or stagnant water.
Plumbing in buildings that have been closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic could provide a perfect breeding ground for legionella and other aquatic pathogens, the CDC warns.
This even happened with the CDC itself.
“During the recent closure of our rented premises in Atlanta, operating through the General Services Administration (GSA), the CDC instructed the landlord to take protective action,” the CDC told CNN.
“Despite their best efforts, the CDC has been informed that legionella, which can cause legionnaires̵
People most at risk include the elderly, smokers, people with suppressed immune systems and diabetics.
Last year, according to the CDC, 4,294 cases were registered. So far this year, 1,813 cases have been registered.
It is not yet clear whether the pandemic has exacerbated the problem or perhaps alleviated it because people do not gather in large hotels or work so much in large factory buildings, said Chris Edens, an epidemiologist with the Legionella CDC team. He said public health services, which usually monitor and report cases of Legionella infection, are linked to the coronavirus.
And no national entity systematically inspects buildings to see if bacteria have begun to grow in water pipes. “There is currently no national monitoring of aquatic systems for legionella disease,” Edens said.
As people return to work and start traveling more, hospitals and clinics need to consider the possibility of legionella, Edens said. “Influenza and coronavirus are not the only things that can cause severe pneumonia,” he said. If people develop pneumonia, it’s worth testing them for legionella – especially since it can be treated with antibiotics, unlike the flu or coronavirus.
Many different buildings can be put at risk and building managers need to be aware of prolonged closures. “We’re talking about hotels, we’re talking about big office buildings, we’re even talking about some types of factories … a lot of those buildings are closed,” Edens told CNN.
“This water sits and may be at risk of legionella growth.”
Poorly maintained cooling towers are another potential source.
Repair is not difficult. “You want to keep the cold water cold and you want to keep your hot water warm,” Edens said. Legionella thrives at temperatures between 80 ° and 120 ° Fahrenheit. It has been killed by chlorination and other disinfectants, but the bacteria can grow into mats, creating a hard-to-dispose of sludge inside the pipes, Edens said.
“One of the things we usually recommend in buildings that have been used is redness,” he said.
“It can be as easy as turning on the tap. Let the cold or hot water pass through the system. Keep that water moving.”
By the way, legionella is not the only risk. “There are many different pathogens in the water,” Edens said. “There are certainly other bugs.”
“These may include other microbial hazards, such as non-tuberculous mycobacteria, changes in water chemistry that lead to corrosion, leaching of metals (such as lead) in stagnant water, disinfectant by-products and sewage gases that enter buildings through dry sanitation. sewer traps, ”it says.