Legionella : Causes of Legionellosis and How to Prevent It
Legionella is a type of bacteria that can cause a serious illness known as legionellosis. While this infection is rare, it can be fatal if not treated quickly. In this article, we will discuss more about the Legionella bacteria, the symptoms of Legionellosis, as well as effective ways to prevent its spread.
A brief introduction to Legionella bacteria
Legionella is a genus of gram-negative bacteria commonly found in aquatic environments, such as freshwater and hot water. One of the most recognized species of this genus is Legionella pneumophila, which is often the main cause of Legionellosis. These bacteria have the ability to multiply in moist water systems, such as water supply systems, swimming pools, and showers.
Legionellosis: Symptoms and Risks
Legionellosis is a disease that can cause mild to severe respiratory infections. Common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and muscle pain. People who are more susceptible to Legionellosis are the elderly, smokers, and individuals with weakened immune systems.
Quoting the article of the Latest Official Information Media of Infectious Diseases of the Ministry of Health, Legionellosis FAQ updated June 10, 2023. "From 2010 - 2019, several cases of Legionellosis were reported from foreign tourists traveling to Bali and West Java based on case findings from their home countries, but no deaths were reported. On May 30, 2023, 2 first confirmed cases of Legionellosis (Indonesian citizen) were reported in Bandung City, West Java."
How Legionella is Transmitted
Legionella is usually spread through air contaminated by water particles (aerosols) containing the bacteria. This can occur through ventilation systems, fountains, swimming pools or showers. Therefore, environments containing water droplets are potential places for Legionella to thrive and cause infection.
The source of infection is water from ventilation systems in large buildings, air conditioning (AC) condensers, steam from improperly cleaned hot tubs, humidifiers, spa whirlpools, showers, and faucets can be contaminated with Legionella bacteria so that they can transmit to humans when aerosols from these sources are inhaled or swallowed. To date, there have been no cases of Legionellosis caused by physical contact between humans (sufferers and non-sufferers).
The risk of being infected with this disease can increase in:
- People aged 50 years and over
- Smokers or have ever smoked, because they are susceptible to all types of lung infections
- Have chronic lung disease (COPD) or other serious conditions such as diabetes, cancer
- Have a weak immune system, due to the HIV virus, or use of drugs that weaken the immune system.
- Have received an organ transplant
In addition, frequent travel can also increase the risk of getting Legionnaires'. That's because hotels, resorts and cruise ships often have large and complex water systems and aerosol-generating devices.
How to prevent this disease is by adopting a healthy lifestyle, maintaining the immune system, avoiding smoking, and regularly cleaning water and airways where legionella bacteria live. Preventive measures do not completely protect against infection, but the risk of infection and transmission can be reduced.
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