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AIHA provides preventative guidance on Legionella

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The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has released a new guideline on Legionella in building water systems.

Recognition, Evaluation, and Control of Legionella in Building Water Systems

offers guidance for industrial hygienists and other occupational and environmental health and safety professionals on assessing building water systems before disease occurs.

“Other guidelines and standards are targeted at industry guidelines,” said Brian Shelton, one of the authors. “We came at this from a public health standpoint. This is the first guideline that takes a new, preventive approach, based on proven industrial hygiene principles to controlling the spread of Legionella.”

Legionella is a bacterium that can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a serious respiratory illness that can result in life threatening pneumonia and can be fatal for people with pre-existing medical conditions. People become infected with Legionella by inhaling the mist from water sources where the bacteria thrive, which can include the potable water systems of homes, hospitals, and hotels. In recent years, incidence of Legionnaires’ disease has increased substantially nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

, the incidence of Legionnaires’ in the general population rose 320 per cent, from 0.42 per 100,000 in 2001 to 1.36 per 100,000 in 2011.

Most recently, public health officials have launched an investigation into an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the South Bronx section of New York City, which has sickened nearly 100 people and has currently claimed the lives of 10. 

The authors characterize Legionnaires’ disease as “the most lethal building-related illness associated with water-borne bacteria.” 

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