A legionella is a pathogenic group of bacteria that includes the lethal species, L. pneumophila. This particular dreadful type of bacteria is infamous for causing the Legionella infection or Legionnaires' disease. The Legionnaires' disease is characterized by severe inflammation of the lungs – a fatally severe form of pneumonia. This deadly bacterium makes its home in damp or complete wet environments in potable or non-potable water. The bacterium reaches the human body when people inhale tiny droplets of water infested with this microbe. However, this is not a communicable disease that may spread from one person to another.
Although the first case of legionella infection was detected in 1976, yet there is still no vaccine that can protect us from this strain of bacteria. It can be, especially fatal for those who smoke or have a compromised immune system. The symptoms of Legionnaires' disease can pop up in the guise of high fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, headaches, and diarrhoea. The factory environment, which employs tons of equipment that make use of water and release steam into spaces filled with employees that are probable chain smokers, is a great recipe for Legionnaires' disease. So, here are some ways to control and prevent the spread of cooling tower legionella infection.
- Have an Effective Water Management Plan in Place
Legionella water management programs have become an industry standard for commercial facilities and factories in Australia to have. Commercial facilities employing enormous water systems like cooling towers harbour pathogens and often can become a complex affair to manage. Maintenance, renovations, and service interruptions can create an even worse condition. Moreover, it gets difficult to maintain the disinfectant level like that of chlorine in warm water, which increases the chance of contamination manifold. In such a situation, there is no other solution than to build a concrete water management plan with the help of professionals.
- Get the Water Tested
The World Health Organization (WHO) advisors recommend testing for Legionella pneumophila since this genus contains many species that do not cause illness. The pneumophila strain is notorious for causing the infection among other diseases like Pontiac fever, which is a mild flu-like illness.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are rapid tests that offer faster results in an outbreak situation. However, culture tests, used to diagnose bacterial infections, are the only dependable source of accurate quantification of Legionella. This test, along with the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) tests, does not discriminate between live Legionella and bacteria that have already been controlled and are not a threat to patients.
- Regular Inspection
Owners and managers should take special care to conduct systematic inspection for any mechanical deficiencies. Damages like leaks, broken fans, panels, and infill should be replaced within a short notice as a measure against legionella infection. Drift eliminators are devices that are designed to control the amount of droplets that evaporate into the environment – a strong measure against legionella. These should be at their best at all times, so regular checks and replacements as and when required are unavoidable. Consistent automatic system monitoring and commissioning are necessary for both enhancing water quality and system performance. Thus, it is worth investing in for every cooling tower.
- Water Treatment
Keeping the condition of the water optimal is one of the key steps to put an end to the risks of legionella. There should be a dedicated filtration system installed to filter out sedimentation, dust, debris organic, and biological hazards like legionella. Proper water treatment can also manage the perils of scale formation, maintain optimum pH, reduce corrosion, and avoid biological contamination.
Thus, in conclusion, we would like to say that cooling tower legionella, although deadly, can be controlled easily by implementing these simple yet effective techniques.