Legionnaires’ Outbreak in Chicago Highlights Importance of Biohazard Cleanup
In an era of drug resistant “super bugs,” the recent cases of bacterial outbreaks highlight the importance of maintaining high levels of safety measures to prevent facing a difficult and dangerous biohazard cleanup job.
A recent confirmed outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was traced to a hot tub inside an Illinois fitness center just west of Chicago. The two men with reported cases are listed in stable condition according to a report from NBC Chicago. The Legionella bacteria reportedly entered the water system and colonized, causing concern for the gym’s members and staff. The hot tub has been out of use and thoroughly cleaned and tested to ensure the disease does not spread, but the cleanup process for this type of bacteria is extremely difficult and tedious.
“This specific type of bacteria survives in the steam of water, and can be spread through the inhalation of water vapor or mist. In order to properly remediate the situation, clean water would need to be pumped through the plumbing system and water tanks, coupled with a strong cleanse with chlorine,” said Andrew Whitmarsh, Operations Safety and Compliance Manager for Aftermath. Andrew has vast experience in biohazard remediation, including cleaning crime scenes of dangerous bloodborne pathogens like HIV, MRSA and Hepatitis.
Legionnaires’ disease is an especially dangerous illness as it can lead to deadly pneumonia. It takes two distinct forms: Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, chills, muscle aches and headaches.
This is not the first outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Chicago area. Just last summer, three deaths in Chicago were linked to the disease and eventually traced back to a Marriott hotel in the Loop.
Although Aftermath does not conduct remediation of Legionnaires’ disease, they have experience in biohazard remediation and can lend their expertise to the prevention of bacterial outbreaks. The following are ways some ways to prevent an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, specifically in hot tubs:
- Maintain water systems in which Legionella grow, including drinking water systems, hot tubs and fountains, using the following guidelines for appropriate water temperatures and chemical treatment of water for legionellosis prevention found here.
- High water temperatures make it hard to maintain the disinfectant levels needed to kill germs like Legionella, so make sure the hot tub has the right disinfectant and pH levels.
- Low water volumes coupled with high temperatures and frequent use make public hot tub operation challenging. The result can be low disinfectant levels that allow the growth and spread of a variety of germs that can cause skin and respiratory Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs). Consult operators that focus on hot tub maintenance and operation to defend against these dangerous illnesses.