Leeds water company warns unused buildings carry deadly Legionnaires' disease risk

Bosses at a Leeds water company have warned about the dangers of a potentially deadly bacteria lurking in the systems of buildings lying empty in the Covid-19 lockdown.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many buildings across the city are currently unused as people remain isolated in their homes - but Bramhope-based Water Hygiene Services has warned this carries a risk of the fatal Legionella bacteria building up in stagnant water or heating systems.

The company said unless preventative action is taken, when hot and cold water systems are not running, the chances of the bacteria forming increases.

Legionella bacteria can cause a range of diseases but the most serious is Legionnaires' disease - a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection.

Testing during a previous Legionnaires' disease outbreak in England. File pic: PA

It is caused by inhaling droplets of water from things like taps, spa pools and showers.

Although rare, the disease can be fatal and is usually caught in places like hotels, hospitals or offices where the bacteria has got into the water supply.

Symptoms are similar to the flu - and to Covid-19 - and include high fever, chills, cough, muscle pains, headache, pneumonia as well as diarrhoea and signs of mental confusion.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, a urine or blood test can help diagnose Legionnaires' disease and the illness is treated with an antibiotic.

Water Hygiene Service is urging those with responsibility for looking after buildings to take steps now to control the risk from Legionella during the lockdown.

Managing director Ben Baldwin said: "Hot and cold water systems in buildings that are now empty pose a risk of water stagnation which could lead to a potential build-up of bacteria, therefore to reduce risk, these systems must be reinstated correctly prior to being returned to operation."

The company has continued to service critical organisations such as NHS Hospitals and the social care sector to ensure the water systems are safe since the pandemic began.

But Ben urged those in charge of other buildings across the city to take responsibility now so as not to overload engineers before any lifting of lockdown rules - and consider reinstating their water systems earlier than anticipated.

He said: "For example, should schools, colleges and universities all reopen in the coming months, there will be a huge demand for water systems to be serviced accordingly over the next few weeks and months, and possibly not enough engineers to complete this work at the last minute."

For more information visit https://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/what-is.htm.

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