Legionella Awareness: Outbreak Traced to Chicago Hotel Spa
In light of the recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease traced back to a prominent downtown Chicago hotel’s spa, we believe the time is right for facility managers and operators to review their approach to controlling this harmful bacteria.
Spas are not the only location capable of harboring these dangerous bacteria. Both potable and non-potable water systems are vulnerable, including:
- Cooling Towers/Evaporative Condensers
- Shower Heads and Sink Faucets
- Decorative Fountains
- Air Handler Condensate Drip Pans
- Ice Making Machines
- Swimming Pools
- Caused by bacteria known as Legionella
- Discovered in 1976 after outbreak of an “unknown” sickness at American Legion event
- Symptoms can include chills, fever, cough, aches, loss of appetite, and chest X-Rays usually indicate pneumonia
- Symptoms occur 2-10 days after exposure
- Transmission occurs through water mist containing Legionella bacteria
- Most water sources listed above can harbor this bacteria if not properly disinfected and maintained
Why Test for Legionella?
- Help Avoid Potential Outbreaks
- Protect guests, employees, employees, tenants
- Reduce Liability
- Reduce chance for bad press associated with outbreaks
We recommend a proactive approach to controlling Legionella bacteria in facilities including:
- Treating open systems such as cooling towers, fountains, spas, pools etc… with appropriate biocides.
- A regular legionella testing program of “at risk” water systems to make sure dosage and application of biocides are adequately protecting against legionella
- Following ASHRAE’s proposed Standard 188P Legionella Control Standard
- Customizable testing programs
- Individual/Multiple Samples per request
- Immediate Treatment of Contaminated Systems if Results are Positive
- Preventative Chemical Treatment in Open Systems
For years, water treatment and safety experts have searched for a universal standard that could be applied across all facilities to adequately control for legionella.
The American Society of Heating , Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has developed a Standard Practice that lays out necessary steps to prevent Legionnaires’ disease. In July 2010 it was approved for public review.
The standard aims to help prevent out breaks, however; there is no way to completely eliminate chance for outbreaks because the environmental source of the bacteria is uncontrollable. This standard outlines the best way to use hazard analysis and control information about Legionella.
Compliance with 188P is voluntary as ASHRAE has no enforcement power, however; this standard offers the best practice to adequately protect guests, employees, and property owners from health and liability risks.
Here are some helpful, informational links:
- Link to AWT Summary of Standard Practice 188P by Pearson & McCoy
- Link to Presentation Summary of 188P by McCoy
- CDC Page on Legionella
- Legionnaires’ Page in OSHA Technical Manual
- ASHRAE Article on Assessing Legionella Risk
- Association of Water Technologies Legionella Control Guidelines for Potable & Non-Potable Water