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Rzeszow, legionella. Sanitary inspector: we do not know the source of infection yet, an epidemiological investigation is underway

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It is still not known what is the source of infection with the Legionella pneumophila bacteria, the head of the Podkarpackie Sanepid said. He noted that an epidemiological investigation is underway. Preventive disinfection of the water supply network was carried out in Rzeszów over the weekend. After seven days, the health department will take control water samples to check m. whether these actions inactivated the bacteria. So far, the infection has been confirmed in 144 people, as many as 11 have died.

– The source of Legionella pneumophila infection is not yet known. They are to be indicated by an epidemiological investigation conducted by the sanepid. This is what the investigation is about. At the moment I am not able to answer what could have happened – said the Podkarpackie Voivodship Sanitary Inspector Adam Sidor.

The health department received the first report of infection with the bacteria on Thursday, August 17. At that time, there were 15 hospitalized in hospitals in Rzeszów, in which the presence of the Legionella pneumophila bacteria was confirmed (by Monday, August 28, 144 cases of infection were already recorded, and 11 people died). The health department has launched an epidemiological investigation to detect the source of legionellosis infection.

Legionella in other provinces, almost 150 confirmed infections TVN24

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The Podkarpackie sanitary inspector, when asked about the factors causing such a “sudden burst of bacteria”, said that there are many of them.

– Starting with the weather, air humidity, the amount of water consumed, the demographic structure, the quality of water supply networks, the exposure of the apartment, hygienic habits, including the hygiene of the rooms themselves in the sense of ventilation, the quality of the water itself – he mentioned.

Read also: “Legionella is not dangerous for the vast majority of healthy people”

He added that there are so many factors that can affect the source of infection that an epidemiological investigation must take time, “and above all environmental research.”

“The more of them there are, the better it will be.” In addition, related cases where several common characteristics will be compared that will characterize the given groups of exposure. Plus, expert opinions. And only then will we draw conclusions.

Read also: 11 people die of legionella, infections in another region. Bacteria were detected in four samples

A team of experts was appointed

The team of experts was appointed by the Podkarpackie Voivodeship Sanitary Inspector in connection with legionella infections in the city of Rzeszów and the Rzeszów poviat. The team is primarily to support anti-epidemic activities and exchange experiences in combating outbreaks of infectious diseases. It consists of representatives of the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate, the director of the National Institute of Hygiene and the Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Poland and the National Consultant in the field of epidemiology, as well as the director of the Social Policy Department of the Podkarpackie Voivodeship Office.


As Sidor pointed out, it is also necessary to collect and compare information from specific cases of illness related to, among others, with the stage of the disease, the first symptoms. “We need to collect everything, and we are in the process of collecting this data,” he stressed.

What is Legionellosis?

Legionellosis is a disease of the respiratory system. It is contagious but not contagious. It is caused by legionella bacteria that occur in water and multiply at a temperature of 20-50 degrees Celsius.

Legionella cannot be contracted from humans or by drinking water containing the bacteria. Infection occurs when an aerosol is inhaled from contaminated water, e.g. from a nebuliser, or by microaspiration of water. Chronically ill and immunocompromised people are particularly vulnerable.

Legionella pneumophila shutterstock_1496330648Shutterstock

Legionella lives in the aquatic environment

As we read on the Sanepid website, the Legionella pneumophila bacterium is found all over the world and is widespread in the environment, and its reservoir is water and wet soil. Legionella has been detected in streams, ponds, plumbing systems of hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, taps and shower strainers, water storage tanks, air conditioning and humidification devices, hot tubs, thermal pools, spa pools, medical devices.

“Potentially, this bacterium can be present in the water supply system in any building. Slower water flow, intermittent water use, presence of biofilm, old water installation favor the colonization of Legionella pneumophila” – we read.

The growth of bacteria is favored by sludge rich in calcium and magnesium salts, the presence of algae and protozoa, and the temperature between 25 and 40 degrees C (while it reproduces at 40-60 degrees C).

Read also: Examples of sources of legionella infection. GIS: You can’t catch it from another person

Disinfection of the water supply network in Rzeszów. The health department will take samples for inspection

Preventive disinfection of the water supply network in Rzeszów lasted over the weekend. – After seven days, the health department will take control water samples to check m. whether these actions neutralized the legionella – Sidor told PAP. And he added that the test results will be known after another 10 days,

The preventive disinfection of the water supply network in Rzeszów, carried out over the weekend, consisted in introducing 20 times more chlorine into the water than normally required. According to the MPWiK report, appropriately increased doses of chlorine were recorded at the measurement points.

– We will take water samples for several parameters, not only for legionella, but also for meeting the physico-chemical and microbiological requirements of drinking water, but you have to wait a week – explained the head of the Podkarpackie Sanitary Inspectorate in an interview with PAP.

When asked about the waiting time for sampling after disinfection, he specified that these are the procedures and it is necessary to wait a week.

Samples will be taken at the same points where they were taken before. The point is to compare the results before and after disinfection.

Read also: Legionellosis. The expert indicates when the disease is particularly dangerous

Increased doses of chlorine in the water

Preventive disinfection of the Rzeszów water supply system began on Saturday, August 26. On that day, the Municipal Water and Sewage Company increased the dose of chlorine as a disinfectant for tap water 20 times. Its standard dose is 0.3 milligrams per cubic decimeter. However, in connection with the preventive washing of the nets, its dose was increased to six milligrams per cubic decimeter. A day later, on Sunday, August 27, the network was flushed, which consisted in opening water drains on hydrants located at the ends of the network, which resulted in the outflow of water. Its quality was controlled on site.

According to Artur Gernand from the office of the Mayor of Rzeszów, the MPWiK report presented during Monday’s meeting of the crisis staff in the Rzeszów town hall confirmed appropriately increased chlorine doses at the measurement points.

– Examination of the network showed that chlorine reached every part of the water supply network. The smell of chlorine in the water may persist until the middle of this week, so it is recommended to drink boiled water for the next few days, added Gernand.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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