Legionnaire’s disease, new fear of American hotels before the reopening

Michael Hurtado spent the year flushing the toilet. Every week, hundreds of toilets, thousands of times. “Every week, we go throughout the property and flush all the toilets, we turn on each faucet and every shower. We start at the end of each floor and by the time we come back, we can turn them off ”, he explains to USA Today. This chief engineer at the Ahern hotel, near Las Vegas, was tasked with maintaining the building’s systems, during the closure of the establishment linked to the pandemic. “My team easily devotes sixty hours a week, every week.”

The goal? Do not let the water stagnate and protect closed buildings from bacteria that can accumulate in miles of pipes. One of the most worrying bacteria is Legionella pneumophila, which causes 95% of cases of Legionnaire’s disease, or legionellosis, very rare but potentially fatal. This bacteria kills at least 1,000 Americans per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which created a guide for facilities closed during containment.

Possible resurgence of legionellosis cases

“It is almost certain that we risk having more cases of legionellosis after confinement”, assures Michele Swanson, professor of microbiology at the University of Michigan and member of the National Academies of Sciences, who published a report on Legionella in 2020. The bacteria are naturally present in ponds and rivers, but when they are found in stagnant, lukewarm, non-chlorinated water, they multiply and become a real danger.

These are exactly the conditions that can occur in the piping of a building closed to the public. The hot water cools to temperatures suitable for the proliferation of Legionella. Chlorine in the water treatment system does not hold up for long in stagnant water, says Chris Nancrede, head of a company specializing in Legionella control. “Without a new water supply flowing through the hot water system to remove the old one, the bacteria can quickly grow.”

Water management companies say they receive two to three times more calls than usual now as hotels, business buildings, healthcare facilities or gyms are preparing to reopen. Health establishments constitute the most dangerous risk area since the populations they welcome are already vulnerable.

But no worries for the general public. Richard Miller, researcher at the University of Louisville, recalls that the disease is not contagious and that it is impossible to contract it by drinking water but only by inhaling the bacteria. The places most at risk are hotel showers. “People come to Las Vegas for fun, not to get sick. We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen ”, said Keith Wright, general manager of the Ahern hotel.

Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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