Water treatment for Legionella in healthcare is essential for protecting patients and staff from this serious waterborne pathogen. Legionella is a type of bacteria that can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia that can be fatal, especially in vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.
Healthcare facilities are at an increased risk for Legionella growth and transmission due to a number of factors, including:
- Complex water systems with many dead legs and low-flow areas where water can stagnate
- The use of medical equipment that produces aerosols, such as nebulizers and respiratory therapy devices
- A large number of patients with weakened immune systems
Water treatment for Legionella in healthcare typically involves a combination of physical, chemical, and operational controls. Physical controls include removing debris and biofilm from water systems and maintaining proper water temperatures. Chemical controls involve the use of disinfectants, such as chlorine, to kill Legionella bacteria. Operational controls include flushing low-flow areas and dead legs regularly and maintaining proper water chemistry.
Specific Water Treatment Interventions For Legionella In Healthcare Include:
- Maintaining water temperatures outside the ideal range for Legionella growth: Legionella bacteria grow best in warm water, between 77°F and 113°F (25°C and 45°C). Healthcare facilities should maintain hot water temperatures at or above 140°F (60°C) and cold water temperatures at or below 68°F (20°C).
- Preventing water stagnation: Legionella bacteria thrive in stagnant water. Healthcare facilities should flush low-flow areas and dead legs regularly. Infrequently used fixtures, such as eye wash stations and emergency showers, should also be flushed regularly.
- Ensuring adequate disinfection: A disinfectant residual, such as chlorine, should be maintained throughout the potable water system. This will help to kill Legionella bacteria and other waterborne pathogens.
- Maintaining premise plumbing, equipment, and fixtures to prevent sediment, scale, corrosion, and biofilm: Sediment, scale, corrosion, and biofilm can provide a habitat and nutrients for Legionella bacteria. Healthcare facilities should maintain premise plumbing, equipment, and fixtures to prevent these conditions.
Healthcare facilities should also develop and implement a water management program to control Legionella and other waterborne pathogens. A water management program should include the following elements:
- Risk assessment: Identify areas of the water system that are at risk for Legionella growth and transmission.
- Control measures: Implement physical, chemical, and operational controls to reduce the risk of Legionella growth and transmission.
- Monitoring: Monitor the effectiveness of control measures and make adjustments as needed.
- Documentation: Maintain documentation of the water management program, including risk assessments, control measures, monitoring results, and corrective actions.
By implementing water treatment and management programs, healthcare facilities can protect patients and staff from the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other waterborne infections.
Here Are Some Additional Tips For Water Treatment For Legionella In Healthcare:
- Use a qualified water treatment professional to develop and implement a water management program.
- Test water systems regularly for Legionella bacteria.
- Educate staff about the risks of Legionnaires’ disease and how to prevent it.
- Implement policies and procedures to ensure that water treatment and management measures are followed consistently.
By taking these steps, healthcare facilities can help to keep their patients and staff safe from the dangers of Legionella.