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The Basics About Legionnaires’ Disease And HVAC Systems

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have been credited with increasing indoor comfort and the purity of indoor air quality (IAQ). However, these same systems have been suspected of causing Legionnaires’ disease as the HVAC warm water towers make for an optimum breeding ground of the bacterium that causes this disease. The direct link between HVAC systems and Legionnaires’ disease is yet to be established without any reasonable doubt.


Legionnaires’ disease

Legionellosis is the synonym used to refer to Legionnaires’ disease. The name Legionellosis is coined from the bacterium Legionella pneumophila that causes this disease. Legionellosis is a form of pneumonia whose symptoms include aches, coughing and chills. The disease closely resembles Pontiac Fever, which is also caused by the Legionella pneumophila bacterium.


The history of Legionellosis

Contrary to the reports that insinuate that the disease first broke out in 1976 during the American Legion Convention that was held in Philadelphia, Legionnaires’ disease existed long before the 1960s. However, the diseases got its name from the Legion Convention since it is during this time that its massive and adverse effects were felt in the United States of America. During the convention, at least 221 people contracted this disease, and 34 of them died. The outbreak caused quite a panic because its pathology was not yet clear. Additionally, prior to this outbreak, the US government had warned of a possible epidemic and several entertainment materials (book and movie) had featured an unknown epidemic that had swept an entire town’s population.


The relationship between HVAC systems and Legionellosis

The 1976 break out of Legionnaires’ disease was associated with the HVAC system that conditioned the air in the premises where the convention took place. The bacterium Legionella pneumophila grows in the warm moisture such as is found in towers of air conditioning systems’ towers/ water storage. This bacterium can also thrive in dirty, moist appliances such as shower heads and drainage systems, and, as such, people are warned against keeping wet and unclean water towers and appliances. Adequate ventilation and a dehumidifier are highly recommended for air tight and moist enclosed spaces.

Legionnaires’ disease has existed since time immemorial although it came into the limelight in 1972 at the American Legion Convention. Associated with HVAC systems, and caused by the Legionella pneumophila bacterium, Legionellosis is a form of pneumonia that exhibits with chills and aches. Installing and maintaining functional HVAC systems has been recommended as one of the ways of preventing Legionnaires’ disease.

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