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The Basics About Legionnaires’ Disease and HVAC systems


Most of us don’t really consider the indoor heating or cooling system as dangerous. The systems are there to cool or heat the building up and that’s it. Proper maintenance ensures that you can enjoy the heat during winter and cooling during summer. But did you know that your building ventilation systems could make your sick?

Apparently, they can!

On July 15th 2015, New Yorkers were told that more than 100 people tested positive for Legionnaires Disease. The infection caused by Legionella pneumophila bacteria that spread because of an infected water-cooling tower. Due to poor maintenance, the bacterial infection spread to all five cooling towers of the South Bronx building and infected the people in the building and around it as well. At the time of writing, more than 10 people had died from the infection and the city health commissioner had issued health warnings to people living in the area.

What Caused The Legionella Outbreak?

Legionella bacteria thrived in wet humid locations and the cooling system of the building had not been cleaned in quite some time. The bacteria spread through the ventilation system and it was vented out in the form of water droplets. The sick, elderly, children, and immune compromised patients were the most affected by the disease. Two to ten days after exposure, patients came down with fever, chills, sputum-filled coughs, chills and muscle aches. In some patients, the disease progressed to a widespread infection that may resulted in death. Some patients also suffered from Pontiac fever, a milder form of legionnaires diseases, that resolved in two to five days.

Could It Happen To You?

This could happen to anyone. In fact, the CDC states that more than 8000 patients are affected with Legionnaires’ Disease” every year. Fortunately, the disease is completely preventable. All it takes is a properly maintained and checked HVAC system. This New York outbreak was so serious that the city is expected to pass a new legislation to check building HVAC systems of all buildings. You don’t have to worry though. Just make sure that your heating and cooling systems are checked regularly.

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