Guidelines on minimising Legionnaires’ risk are inadequate for safeguarding the health of ageing population
Brunel University of London research team have critically assessed the codes of practice on Legionnaires’ risk issued by the World Health Organisation, UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The research stated that people living in standard blocks of flats (as opposed to hospitals or care homes for the elderly which house residents most at risk from Legionella pneumophila) are neglected when it comes to monitoring and protecting against the water-borne bacteria, even though one in five residents are in high-risk categories' - Dr Edwin Routledge says
Guidelines for controlling Legionnaires’ risk should also cover standard residencies
People at higher risk of contracting Legionnaires are :
- people over 45 years of age
- smokers and heavy drinkers
- people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
- diabetes, lung and heart disease
- anyone with an impaired immune system
'Approximately 400,000 people in the UK over the age of 65 live in nursing homes or residential homes'. However, many older people live in standard blocks of flats, with water systems that have perfect conditions for Legionella to grow.
Unlike healthcare facilities, standard residential buildings are not obliged to follow guidelines on what levels of Legionella should result in further remedial actions. There are HSE guidelines for landlords that require them to assess the Legionnaires’ risk in rented properties, but many of them are failing to do so, or simply are not aware of this regulations.
“The burden of age-related diseases in society is increasing. By 2035 we can expect more than six million people in the UK aged 65 and above, with long standing serious illness, living in residential homes. But your typical block of flats is currently not considered to be ‘high risk’. Based on the percentage of elderly and vulnerable residents living in them, we believe they should be.” says Dr Routledge.
Testing methods are not reliable enough to control Legionnaires’ risk
Current sampling techniques available on the market are simply not good enough. They are not reliable, they take a long time to return results, and are confusing to many.
'Research in 2014 by Whiley and Taylor saw almost 4,000 environmental samples analysed for Legionella, with 34% of samples testing positive when ‘culture (laboratory) methods’ were used but 72% testing positive when using a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) method.
Neither technique is perfect, say the Brunel research team - the former method is likely to underestimate the presence of Legionella, while the latter can overestimate the concentration of live bacteria present.'
Figures quoted in the Brunel report also suggest a possible link to global warming - an increase in Legionnaires’ cases has been recorded during exceptionally warm or wet weather as conditions become more favourable for the survival and replication of Legionella.
The report recommends:
- Measures to protect the susceptible population of residents in non-healthcare premises should be re-examined
- There should be greater harmonisation of Legionella standards in both health and non-healthcare premises
- The proportion of residents over 65 occupying a building should be included as a risk factor in routine risk management strategies
- New rapid test methods for Legionella should be developed
- The potential impact of global warming on the risk of exposure to Legionella and its consequences should be investigated.
Rapid testing to monitor and control Legionnaires’ risk
Hydrosense is the World's only manufacturer of rapid, on-site Legionella test kits. Hydrosense test is highly specific for legionella pneumophila, which caused almost all outbreaks known to date. The test can be done on-site, and returns results in 25 min. You do not need any training or experience to do the test. We provide instructional videos that guide you through the whole process step by step. The beauty of Hydrosense tests is that they are designed to give you a 'Call to Action' . In other words if you get a positive with hydrosense test, there is no doubt that you need to do something about it.
Fidn Out more About Legionella Testing Methods Available On The Market
The full article from Brunel University of London can be found here