Legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease)

Legionella are bacteria that are naturally found in water and cause Legionnaires' disease, also known as legionellosis. They can cause problems in humans when they reach the lungs in high concentration.

Everyone is susceptible to infection as the bacteria can be found almost everywhere in the environment. People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. In most instances infection takes place in the shower or jacuzzi. In recent years, compost soil has also been identified as an important but rather underestimated source of legionella. Although the risk of infection is rare, the number of cases of Legionnaires' disease reported in Switzerland has increased steadily in recent times.

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia, which is often very severe. The initial symptoms of infection are cough, diarrhoea and fever that can develop into severe pneumonia or pleurisy. Particularly at risk of catching the disease are elderly people, smokers, heavy drinkers and people with chronic heart or lung disease or a weakened immune system.

So far there is no vaccine against Legionella. However, if the disease is diagnosed in time, it can be treated well. In order to prevent the occurrence of legionella bacteria in any household, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health recommends keeping the temperature of hot water at 55 °C and the temperature of cold water under 20 °C.

If you have any further questions, please contact your physician.

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