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With retail opening once again for curbside and more expected opening instructions from Governor Greg Abbott on Monday, April 27, the Town of Little Elm wants to remind business owners and other stakeholders about the potential for another serious illness: the potentially lethal lung infection Legionnaires’ disease.
Legionnaires’ disease, also known as legionellosis, is a form of atypical pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. Legionella can develop in water pipes when water sits stagnantly. While public water systems are treated to kill bacteria, disinfectants that remove illness-causing microbes break down over time, leaving the potential for bacteria like Legionella to develop and grow.
"Old water must be flushed out for safety," said Jason Shroyer, Town of Little Elm Director of Public Works.
Old water can be removed by flushing the pipes, including air conditioning units, hot tubs, ice machines, sinks, and showers. Both hot and cold water lines must be flushed, and how long a business should flush their lines varies.
"The type and size of the building and how much plumbing they have is a factor," Shroyer said.
Resources building owners and managers can look to for guidance on reopening facilities, and links to some of those resources can be found below:
· The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention published Guidance for Building Water Systems to ensure water safety after a prolonged shutdown.
· The American Water Works Association has a number of resources related to waterborne pathogens and water quality in general.
· Purdue University has information and resources available related to building water safety.
The signs and symptoms of the Legionnaire’s disease include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains, and headaches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur.
People can develop Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contains the bacteria, or by aspiration of drinking water containing Legionella (when water accidentally goes into the lungs while drinking).
Legionnaires’ disease cannot be transmitted from person to person but has a death rate of about one in ten, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.