rqmicro’s Tips for Summer Holidays

How to Stay Away from Legionnaires’ Disease on Your Vacation

Are you ready for summer holidays? So are Legionella.

A recent study in the EuroSurveillance journal showed that Legionella were found in more than 65% of a total 465 tourist facilities, including hotels, apartments and agritourism, on the Spanish Balearic Islands [1]. Similar contamination rate has also been reported in previous studies in other classic summer holiday destinations, such as Hungary 72% [2], Italy 66.9% [3], Greece 75% [4] and the Netherlands 85% [5]. Croatia, even with a relatively low contamination rate, has 27.2% [6].

Legionella are often present in low numbers in environmental waters and soil. The risk of transmitting Legionnaire’s disease, also known as Legionellosis, is real when Legionella find ideal conditions for growth, typically in drinking water systems within buildings, water tanks and circulating water used for pools or cooling systems. It is the facility manager’s responsibility to keep the building safe from Legionella outbreaks by implementing effective water hygiene procedures and confirming the safety with repeated Legionella tests.

As individuals, is there anything we can do to protect ourselves from exposure to Legionella during vacation?

The answer is definitely yes, and here are a few tips that our water microbiology experts from rqmicro would personally practice when travelling. Check them out and hopefully you will find them useful:

  1. When you first check in a new hotel room, do not take a shower immediately. Let the water run a couple of minutes, both the cold and the hot water, before you use it for shower or hand wash;
  2. Same rule applies when you wake up in the morning. Let the overnight water in the tube run a minute before you use it for morning routine;
  3. When you let the water run in the bathroom, try to release it gently to avoid creating aerosols and consider leaving the room for a short time;
  4. Avoid direct exposure to air humidifiers or A/C systems because the water and filters in these systems are a playground for Legionella and other microbes if not maintained properly;
  5. If you are concerned about the swimming pool, you may ask the manager when was the last time the pool was cleaned and the water got tested to have a better idea of the hygiene conditions;
  6. When you get home after vacation, don’t forget to let the water flow for a while. Besides, cleaning the shower head and tube or renew it once in a while also helps to prevent Legionella exposure at home.

Transmitting Legionnaire’s disease is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Suspicious symptoms for Legionnaires’ disease quite similar to COVID, as shown in the chart by the Center of Disease Control, USA, below. We strongly advise that you contact your health practitioner when these symptoms are prevalent.

Last but not least, if you are a Facility Management professional and would like to implement effective Legionella control, we might be able to help you. Don’t hesitate to reach out and we wish you a happy and healthy summer holiday!

Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease (Legionellosis) by the US CDC

References

[1] Doménech-Sánchez Antonio, Laso Elena, Berrocal Clara I, Albertí Sebastián. Environmental surveillance of Legionella in tourist facilities of the Balearic Islands, Spain, 2006 to 2010 and 2015 to 2018. Euro Surveill. 2022;27(21):pii=2100769. https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2022.27.21.2100769

[2] Barna Z, Kádár M, Kálmán E, Scheirich Szax A, Vargha M. Prevalence of Legionella in premise plumbing in Hungary. Water Res. 2016;90:71-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j. watres.2015.12.004 PMID: 26724441

[3] Napoli C, Fasano F, Iatta R, Barbuti G, Cuna T, Montagna MT. Legionella spp. and legionellosis in southeastern Italy: disease epidemiology and environmental surveillance in community and health care facilities. BMC Public Health. 2010;10(1):660. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-10-660 PMID: 21044294

[4] Kyritsi MA, Mouchtouri VA, Katsioulis A, Kostara E, Nakoulas V, Hatzinikou M, et al. Legionella colonization of hotel water systems in touristic places of Greece: association with system characteristics and physicochemical parameters. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(12):E2707. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15122707 PMID: 30513698

[5] Euser SM, Bruin JP, van der Hoek W, Schop WA, den Boer JW. Wellness centres: an important but overlooked source of Legionnaires disease. Eight years of source investigation in the Netherlands, 1 August 2002 to 1 August 2010. Euro Surveill. 2012;17(8):20097. https://doi.org/10.2807/ese.17.08.20097-en PMID: 22401507

[6] Rakić A, Štambuk-Giljanović N. Physical and chemical parameter correlations with technical and technological characteristics of heating systems and the presence of Legionella spp. in the hot water supply. Environ Monit Assess. 2016;188(2):73. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-015-5047-8 PMID: 26733467

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