Public Health - Preventing Legionellosis


Since it was reconginsed 30 years ago, legionellosis has affected millons of people. William F McCoy, author of a new book from IWA Publishing, looks at the steps needed to mount an effective reponse to the disease. Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1976 American Legion convention of military veterans held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is remembered primarily not for the bicentennial celebration of the country, but rather for a mysterious disease outbreak that struck down dead 34 people and debilitated nearly another 200.

One year later, the cause of the outbreak had been proven to be a previously-unknown waterborne pathogenic bacterium subsequently named Legionella in honour of the afflicted Legionnaires. The biological hazard was scientically proven to have caused widespread endemic pneumonia all the way back to 1943 and in outbreaks reaching back as far as the 1950s.

Soon after analysis of the hazard was worked out, it became apparent that hazard control eas a matter of good water treatment and building water system management. Since then legionellosis has killed , severely debilitated or has been otherwise detrimental in the families of millions of people. If the hazard and how to controlit has been known for more than two decades, then why does legionellosis still harm so many people?

Today, legionellosis still causes tremendous human suffering because:

  • public concern is not propotional to public risk
  • Codes of Practice and Standards are not adequate or not implemented
  • scientically-based hazard analysis and control is not implemented
  • commercial conflicts of interest impede good practice



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