When I was a young lad working in construction, the first job I worked on was the Bellevue Stratford right after the first known outbreak of Legionnaires Disease happened and killed 34 people. In 1977, Dr. Joseph McDade discovered a new bacterium, which was identified as the causative organism. Named after the American Legion gathering that took place in Philly it has become widely known as Legionella.
‘Legionella’ is a type of aerobic bacteria that causes a potentially fatal infectious disease that affects the respiratory system and can cause fever, pneumonia and acute influenza. A milder strain of this is called Pontiac Fever. There are at least 40 species that occur naturally in the environment. Typically Legionella can take up to 2 weeks to develop but the milder strain (Pontiac Fever) can show symptoms in just 2 hours.
What you NEED to know is where it can grow and take precautions to prevent exposure and possible infection. The list of water systems that have been known to harbor the Legionella bacteria is extensive. However, today we are talking about Hot Tubs, a place where Legionella grows easily.
Warm water provides an ideal environment for the bacteria to thrive. It’s not necessary to be in the water. Just standing near moist infected water can cause a person to contract the disease. The aerated water can make this likely to happen although any water source can become infected, even your house shower.
In Hot Tubs the chemical balance needs to be maintained and as they say, “The more the merrier” can translate to, “The more people the more chances.” Hot Tubs that are not routinely cleaned and maintained are potential health threats. Of course we expect Hotels and Commercial Spas to maintain their equipment properly and we can’t know if they do, but you can keep your own Hot Tub safe.
EMSL Analytical Inc. says, “The unit should not be run using untreated tap water. Proper maintenance includes not only treating the water but also shutting down the unit weekly to scrub away any biofilm deposits on the sides of the unit and cleaning/replacing the filters. The unit should then be refilled using tap water treated with the correct dosing of water treatment chemicals.”
It’s not just the water!
Don’t forget to check and clean the filters on a regular basis too. Recommendations are to keep several sets of filters available so each set can be thoroughly dried after cleaning.
Higher risk individuals are of course, my age group (over 50), Smokers (current or former), people with chronic lung disease (such as emphysema and chronic asthma) and individuals with weakened immune systems, to name a few.
Testing is available and if you have any question about your Hot Tub, please get it checked and avoid that great deal on a Hot Tub that has been sitting on your neighbor’s lawn all winter that says, “For Sale”