Prevent a Legionnaire's Disease Outbreak at Your Nursing Home with This Simple Checklist
Many people aren't aware that legionella, the dangerous bacteria responsible for the potentially fatal Legionnaire's disease, exists in most large buildings. While most people are at a low risk of contracting severe Legionnaire's disease, those in nursing homes may have a much higher chance. Among those who could be fatally infected are people over 50, people with weak immune systems (including cancer sufferers), people with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, and people who used to smoke heavily. Many residents in nursing homes fit into more than one of these categories, so extra care must be taken to prevent a devastating outbreak at your facility. Legionnaire's is spread by breathing in mist or water droplets infected with legionella bacteria. Make sure you take care of this simple checklist to reduce your nursing home's risk.
1. Check Your Hydrotherapy Pool
Hydrotherapy can work wonders on the ageing body, but a spa pool or hot tub contaminated with legionella could have the opposite effect. These bodies of water provide the ideal ground for Legionnaire's disease to attack -- bacteria breeds in the water and enters the body through the steam. Make sure samples of your pool water are checked for any sign of infectious bacteria. They should be drained, scrubbed and disinfected regularly to prevent growth, and filters should be replaced when necessary. Ensure any repairs are carried out swiftly, and block off access to the area if bacteria is found in the water.
2. Check Your Garden Safety
Is horticultural therapy and gardening a regular activity at your facility? If so, make sure you're taking extra precautions outdoors to prevent the spread of Legionnaire's disease. Legionella bacteria can be found in soils, mulches and potting mixes, which any garden-loving elderly residents will be exposed to on a regular basis. Any safety measures that prevent unnecessary exposure to the soil are a good idea. Face masks, for example, can ensure that no one breathes in any droplets from the damp mulch. Gloves or regular hand washing are also an essential.
3. Check Your Hot Water System
Legionella lives in temperatures between 20°C and 60°C, so you need to ensure your hot water system is storing water at a temperature above this range. Check your temperatures regularly, and have your system evaluated by a professional. Another concern with hot water systems is distribution. In general, water should be dispensed at 50°C or higher to avoid the spread of legionella. However, in nursing homes with elderly and vulnerable residents, water should be dispensed at less than 45°C to prevent scalding. Thus, your thermostatic mixer valve needs to be installed as close as possible to your water outlets to ensure water temperatures remain high for as long as possible before distributing. If your current system does not account for this, ensure you have it updated or replaced at the earliest convenience.
For more information, contact professionals like Peninsula Plumbing S.A.