With the recent coronavirus pandemic, many states found themselves in lockdown with a stay-at-home order to flatten the curve of the virus’s spread. These lockdowns included just about everyone—offices, schools, gyms—everyone but those deemed essential workers.
What wasn’t known is that due to the lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, another disease had the ability to take hold and become just as prevalent. The disease, which has been around for quite some time, is called Legionnaires Disease.
Anne Clayson, a health expert and an associate professor in occupational hygiene at the University of Manchester, has said that with the lockdown measures the likelihood of is increasing that portions of the population will become infected by the disease.
The symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease mimic COVID-19 in that those individuals with the disease will present with fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. So, now the question is, how does one contract Legionnaires in the first place?
Legionnaires is not commonly transmitted from person to person but through the inhaling of the airborne water droplets or mist that is carrying the bacteria Legionella pneumophilia. Sources for the transmission include showerheads, taps, air conditioning systems, pools, and water fountains. The types of sources will quickly cause large outbreaks within communities.
Clayson warns with the recent lockdowns that were put into place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, have, in turn, increased the possibility of an outbreak of Legionnaire’s. In a recent article, Clayson said: “All water systems are at risk of this foreseeable and preventable contamination, but dormant and decommissioned buildings are especially at risk.”
She went on to say: “That’s because intermittent use of buildings and equipment and the interruption of cleaning regimes increase the likelihood of water stagnation, which in turn increases the likelihood of an outbreak.”
To add insult to injury, with lockdown measures easing across most of the country in time for the Summer months and the fact that L. pneumophila being more active during the warmer months, the chances of an outbreak are significantly increased. Compared to the previous 20 years, the US is reporting an increase of 800% in Legionnaires cases already.
Will Legionnaire’s prove to be our next pandemic?