Legionella risk warning at unoccupied buildings due to coronavirus

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Ingleton Wood, a leading property and construction consultancy in the East of England, has issued a warning over potentially fatal Legionella at offices and other buildings left vacant due to coronavirus. Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia where everyone is susceptible to infection and which can be fatal.

With the current ‘lockdown’, many buildings will be empty or experiencing minimal occupancy and, as a result, domestic water systems within the building could potentially become a Legionella risk if action, such as regular flushing, is not taken.

Unoccupied buildings run the risk of water stagnating, providing conditions where harmful Legionella bacteria can proliferate. Ingleton Wood, based in Colchester, Cambridge, Billericay and Norwich, is now urging property owners, managers and tenants across the region to be aware of the risks and take appropriate action.

Wesley Henderson, Building Services Engineer at Ingleton Wood, said: “The COVID-19 crisis has caused unprecedented building closures. Many have zero or reduced occupancy and now face an increased risk of exposure to Legionella. That’s why we’re encouraging building owners, managers and landlords to be vigilant and aware of their legal obligations.

“One of the greatest risks of potential exposure to Legionella will be when the lockdown ends. It is imperative that the water systems are made safe prior to reoccupation.

“It is not necessarily recommended to drain down mothballed systems as this does not always eliminate the risk. But in all circumstances the flushing of water should be exercised with caution as there is potential for stagnant water to form aerosols containing the bacteria.

“Risk assessments should also identify the risks and control measures required. If in doubt, a specialist water treatment company should be consulted.”

Exposure to Legionella can lead to Legionnaires’ disease, caused by inhaling droplets of water from things like air conditioning. Symptoms include a high temperature, fever, cough, muscle pains, headache, diarrhoea and mental confusion.

Legionella is incredibly rare to catch at home and cannot be caught from drinking water that contains the bacteria or from other infected people or places like ponds, lakes and rivers.