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Legionella infections: Showering can make you sick
Authorities in Germany are seeing legionella infections with increasing frequency. Contagion with the dangerous bacteria can even lead to death. Because the Legionella germs are not only found in bodies of water, but also in tap water at home. However, there are also protections like that, experts reveal in this article.
Legionella infections can be fatal
If you have not used the water pipes at home due to a long absence, you should first run hot water before showering. If you do not do this, you run the risk of becoming infected with legionella (legionella). These bacteria can lead to enormous health problems. In extreme cases, legionellosis can be fatal. Experts explain how to protect yourself.
Bacteria in water pipes
Legionella are environmental germs that are widespread worldwide and are a small number of natural components of surface water and groundwater.
The germs multiply best at temperatures between 25 and 45 degrees. Above 60 degrees they are killed and below 20 degrees they hardly multiply.
In artificial water systems such as water pipes in buildings, the pathogens find particularly good growth conditions due to the prevailing temperatures.
Transmission through atomized water
“The pathogens are transmitted through atomized, atomized water. The pathogen-containing droplets can spread in the air and be inhaled, ”explains the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) on its portal“ infektionsschutz.de ”.
“Possible sources of infection are, for example, showers, humidifiers or taps, as well as cooling towers or air conditioning systems. Transmission is also possible in swimming pools via waterfalls, slides, whirlpools and fountains, ”said the experts.
"In drinking, contagion is possible in rare cases if water accidentally gets into the lungs through the trachea."
A direct transmission from person to person is not yet known, it is considered unlikely.
Two different clinical pictures
"Since the introduction of legionellosis notification in 2001, the number of cases has increased continuously and has stabilized in the past years with around 600 illnesses per year," reports the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on its website.
Legionnaires 'disease is divided into two different types of illnesses: First, legionnaires' disease, or legally speaking, pneumonia. This is a severe form of pneumonia.
In infected people, chest and headache, cough, chills and high fever of 39 to 40.5 degrees develop very quickly.
You may also experience drowsiness or even severe confusion. Abdominal pain with diarrhea and vomiting occasionally occur.
Pneumonia is often severe and lasts around four weeks. A case from Bremen shows that it can also be fatal. A man had died of legionella there two years ago.
Pontiac fever with a milder course
So-called pontiac fever is more common than legionella pneumonia. This is milder, without pneumonia.
This course begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, malaise, headache and body aches. Chest pain and cough are also possible. Confusion states, however, are rare.
The disease usually heals itself within two to five days. Late damage and deaths are not known.
Important to know: The first symptoms of legionnaires' disease appear two to ten days after contact with the pathogen.
However, there are only five hours to almost three days between the infection and the onset of Pontiac fever.
Particularly vulnerable people
“People with a weakened immune system, seniors or smokers are particularly at risk. Likewise, people who take medication that suppress the body's defense system, ”says“ infektionsschutz.de ”.
These people "also develop various complications more often, especially brain and kidneys."
Men get sick more often than women, children only rarely.
Pneumonia caused by Legionella must always be treated with effective antibiotics and often in the hospital.
Antibiotics are usually useless in Pontiac fever. As a rule, only symptoms such as fever are treated.
In the case of diseases, it is fundamentally important to quickly identify and eliminate the source of the infection in order to prevent further infections.
This is how you can protect yourself
It is particularly important to avoid the multiplication of Legionella in the piping system of the drinking water installation.
To do this, you should use the water pipes regularly and run hot water after a long absence before showering.
Avoid standing water in the pipes. The controller temperature on the DHW heater should be set to at least 60 degrees.
At no point should the water temperature in the pipe system be below 55 degrees.
Vaccination against Legionella is not available. (ad)