The number of people hospitalized in Podkarpacie due to Legionella Pneumophila infection is increasing. Residents of Rzeszów and the surrounding area are wondering how they can protect themselves and their loved ones. Dr. Paweł Grzesiowski explains what is the only way to protect against the bacteria.
The source of Legionella infections in Rzeszów is still unknown. According to the latest information provided on Wednesday by the District Sanitary and Epidemiological Station in Rzeszów, 71 infections have been confirmed so far. Three people have died, three more are in serious condition, and the inhabitants of Podkarpacie are asking how they can protect themselves. The source of the infection is still unknown. – There’s not much an ordinary person can do – emphasizes Dr. Paweł Grzesiowski, pediatrician and expert of the Supreme Medical Council on epidemic threats, in an interview with Wprost.pl.
How to protect yourself against Legionella?
– It is a disease that spreads as a result of failures or ineffectiveness of water disinfection in various types of networks – says Paweł Grzesiowski. When we are near fountains and various types of water sources, we assume that they are safe, but it may turn out that dangerous bacteria have “infested” the installation and we are inhaling contaminated water. However, this is beyond our control.
– We, as ordinary people, are in no way responsible for the water network. It’s a matter of installation and servicing. The common man can expect this to be effectively verified by owners and regulatory bodies. First of all, we must be institutionally prepared for this. Rely on a system that must be constructed and supervised by the appropriate services responsible for the safety of the installation. The user cannot do anything on his own – adds the specialist.
The mask protects against Legionella
In a situation where someone has severe immune disorders and would like to participate in a public meeting where there will be a water spray – can effectively protect itself. – There is a simple option – to wear an FP2 filtering mask – says Dr. Grzesiowski. – The bacterium spreads with water aerosol, it is much larger than the virus, therefore the effectiveness of the FP2 mask against bacteria is much higher than against viruses. The mask works like a filter because the bacteria is a larger particle – it is easier to stop it – explains the specialist.
Legionella in Rzeszów – local epidemic outbreak
Dr. Grzesiowski emphasizes, however, that communication regarding the threat of legionellosis must be very balanced, because it is a local epidemic outbreak in a specific region of Poland and we should not create a sense of threat that this bacterium is waiting for us in every installation. – This is certainly a very important signal for all services to closely monitor the water network in the current heatwave. The most important thing is that this event gives all people responsible for water installations a signal to check whether everything is OK – emphasizes the specialist.
How can you become infected with Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease develops as a result of infection with the Legionella Pneumophila bacteria. As a consequence, it may lead to respiratory failure and death. Infection with this disease occurs through droplets – this means that bacteria enter the body when inhaling a water aerosol. “Such an aerosol is created from water droplets containing these bacteria, generated by running water from a tap or shower, flushing a toilet, or from bubbles generated in a Spa pool. Bacteria can live and multiply at temperatures from 20°C to 45°C, but the risk is greater at higher temperatures,” reads the message on the gov.pl website.
Bacteria also appear in natural environments (rivers, lakes, moist soil), but their number there is small. High numbers occur in inadequately preserved water systems. Infection can also be caused by open wounds (e.g. during surgical procedures), but such a situation did not occur in Podkarpacie.
What increases the risk of legionellosis?
Factors that increase the risk of disease and influence the severity of the disease include:
age (older people are particularly susceptible to the disease),
acquired or congenital weakening of immunity,
respiratory diseases (including lung diseases related to cigarette smoking),