Coronavirus Pandemic: Schools Might be at Risk of Legionella after Lockdown

By | July 21, 2020
covid-19 pandemic

Facilities with some areas of stagnant water can potentially have bacteria growth. Depending on the type of bacteria, it can actually cause a fatal respiratory disease with severe symptoms similar to pneumonia.

Teachers and students might be at risk of ‘poisoning’ unless education centres and schools are given enough time to prepare all the details for reopening.

When reopening, universities and schools that fail to flush the outlets of their water systems might be risking the growth of a bacteria that will lead to students exhibiting coronavirus-like symptoms.

This can escalate the probability of older members of the staff and faculty contracting fatal diseases.

A bacteria known as Legionella that can cause a fatal respiratory disease with serious pneumonia-like symptoms in individuals over sixty years old or those with a weakened immune system grows in stagnant water. 

The risk of transmitting Legionnaires’ disease on education centres or campuses greatly increased during school lockdowns and closures since potable and nonpotable water systems were left idle. 

Legionella outbreaks can also trigger longer closures and also health department violations or fines.

Education centres need to be given enough time to prepare all the necessary details for reopening to protect students as well as members of the staff against diseases like Legionnaires’ disease that can easily proliferate in dormant spaces and buildings.

After the lockdown provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of education centres and schools are trying to add water treatment experts to their teams at the same time before they reopen to protect themselves against Legionella outbreaks.

Schools and other education centres need to be completely ready to reopen, at times this means flushing the outlets and water systems to ensure they are not poisoning students or teachers with Legionella, the bacteria that produces Legionnaires’ disease.

Official guidelines have been issued about properly managing school facilities in relation to any reopening. They highlight the importance of flushing the outlets of the water systems.

If schools and other education centres are going to commission water treatment experts, they need to find them and schedule them, right now there are hundreds of schools and other institutions that are trying to do that at the same time. 

The government needs to carefully think about the timing of any announcement about relaxing the current restrictions and ensure education centres have the necessary time to get prepared before any partial or full reopening.

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria and this disease can be lethal. This bacteria can contaminate unused water supplies.

Drinking fountains and showers at schools and universities might give rise to aerosols containing Legionella bacteria. 

However, if the bacteria remain isolated in the pipework, and adequate efforts are implemented to deal with the issue, there should be no cause for concerns.

While schools and other institutions are partially closed, these buildings still need to be looked after to make sure they remain safe and functional. 

Education centres are responsible for their safety and health measures. This includes the management of water safety.

Testing for Legionella

Schools and other buildings that have been left stagnant need to first have their hot and cold water systems flushed meticulously and need to be tested.

The experts recommend performing a flush of water fixtures a couple of times per week to prevent Legionella growth.

Thus, the fact that schools and similar education centres have been closed for several months has created more of an issue.

Students, as well as members of the staff, can be exposed to Legionella bacteria when the contaminated water or aerosols travel from cooling towers or heating tanks, for instance, into water fixtures like drinking-water fountains. Contaminated water can build up in plumbing systems as well as HVAC systems.

To prevent Legionnaires’ disease, schools and universities are advised to undergo the ASHRAE Standard 188, a treatment that involves developing a water team, which should include a Legionella consultant to ensure implementation and testing development.

There are not many cases of young students who have actually died from Legionnaires’ disease unless they already had a weakened immune system. If students get the infection in their lungs, they can eventually develop flu-like symptoms. 

And of course, this can generate extra anxiety because those are the very same symptoms that individuals infected with coronavirus exhibit.