Dr. Tom Makin is a microbiologist who has studied outbreaks for nearly 30 years

Dr. Tom Makin is a microbiologist who has studied outbreaks for nearly 30 years

Dr. Tom Makin is a microbiologist who has studied outbreaks for nearly 30 years

When Dr. Tom Makin comes home from a two-week summer vacation, there is one household job he sees before unpacking his bags. He goes straight to the bathroom and turns on the shower before he comes out again and closes the door firmly behind him.

& # 39; I cover my nose and mouth with one hand and turn on the shower with the other & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; After about 20 minutes I turn off the shower and then I will not go into the bathroom for at least another 20 minutes. & # 39;

This strange ritual has nothing to do with superstition or obsessive behavior. Instead, it is designed to minimize the chance that Dr. Makin, or one of his family, may breathe deadly bacteria, called legionella, that thrive in the stagnant water that collects in household shower heads when not used for more than a few days. .

It may sound too careful, but without this preventive action, contaminated water droplets can be inhaled deep into the lungs, where they can cause Legionnaire's disease, a condition that can potentially cause life-threatening pneumonia and organ failure.

And there are few people in Britain who are better qualified to know the dangers – Dr. Makin, from Cheshire, is a microbiologist who has been studying outbreaks for nearly 30 years.

He warns that summer time is the peak period for legionary infection risk due to hotter weather. The insect thrives in stagnant water above 20 ° C and below 45 ° C – inside shower heads, water tongues, pipes and even in your garden hose or sprinkler system. So something as simple as watering the flowers can lead to a potentially fatal infection.

ILLNESS THAT IS NOT SUSPENDED FOR HISTORY

Legionnaire was first identified in 1976 when several delegates fell ill at a conference in Philadelphia after inhaling polluted water droplets circulating in the water-cooled air conditioning system. It was also the shocking cause of 28 deaths in a Staffordshire hospital in 1985. But the disease is still a problem today.

Official figures suggest that around 500 Britons are infected each year, although it is feared that many more cases will not be reported because patients tolerate temporary symptoms before they are fully recovered without treatment.

The World Health Organization attributes an increasing number of diagnoses to people who shower more than bathe.

But it's not just our bathing habits that pose a threat. Gardeners who open their sprinklers for the first time in months to brighten up dry lawns run the same risk.

The World Health Organization attributes an increasing number of diagnoses to people who shower more than bathe

The World Health Organization attributes an increasing number of diagnoses to people who shower more than bathe

The World Health Organization attributes an increasing number of diagnoses to people who shower more than bathe

Breathlessness, severe chest pain and high temperature usually appear within a few days of legionnaire infection, which is thought to be responsible for as many as one in six cases of pneumonia in the UK.

Survivors who are often treated have to take antibiotics for several weeks to try to remove the bug from their systems.

The greatest risks are smokers, people with a weakened immune system due to existing health problems, such as diabetes or cancer, and the elderly. But the bug can also affect healthy people. Earlier this month, 14 people fell ill following an outbreak associated with a hot tub in a spa in Bournemouth. Nine of them ended up in the hospital.

But experts increasingly fear that more and more people in Great Britain will be affected by legionella insects lurking in and around their own homes. In 2017, scientists from Public Health England took samples from 99 showers at 82 locations in Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Portsmouth, Southampton and Salisbury.

Water was extracted from shower heads that were not used for an hour and the swabs were removed from the bathroom pipes. Almost a third of the samples tested positive for legionella.

Researchers said that six percent of the properties had dangerously high levels of the bug – the equivalent of 1.5 million UK households. Three samples they found even included a virulent new strain of legionella that had not been seen in the UK before.

Public Health England claims that travel abroad is the largest source of infection. But, Dr. Makin says, it is now likely that many of these cases are due to travelers using their own contaminated showers when they return home.

BUG CAN ALSO BE DURING GARDEN HOSES

Retired builder Stephen Clements, from Norfolk, died of legionaries in 2017 after he inhaled small drops of insect-contaminated water from his garden hose while cleaning his patio.

It is thought that stagnant water in the hose was heated by the sun, allowing the Legionella bacteria to flower.

And a study conducted last year by scientists from the government's military research center in Porton Down, Wiltshire, also found that 95 percent of Britain's 11 million domestic garden pools are contaminated with legionella.

A study conducted last year by scientists from the government's military research center in Porton Down, Wiltshire, also found that 95 percent of Britain's 11 million domestic garden pools are contaminated with Legionella (stock image)

A study conducted last year by scientists from the government's military research center in Porton Down, Wiltshire, also found that 95 percent of Britain's 11 million domestic garden pools are contaminated with Legionella (stock image)

A study conducted last year by scientists from the government's military research base in Porton Down in Wiltshire also found that 95 percent of Britain's 11 million domestic garden pools are contaminated with Legionella (stock image)

A recent report from the World Health Organization warned that Legionnaire's disease is now a & # 39; climate sensitive health problem & # 39; must be considered.

& # 39; We see longer, warmer summers and that will encourage the insects to grow & # 39 ;, says Dr. Makin.

So what should we do to protect ourselves?

The Royal Horticultural Society advises: "Empty the water from garden hoses if you have used them and do not leave full hoses in the sun after use.

& # 39; Avoid splashing water when you pour pots and clean tanks and butts once a year.

& # 39; To prevent the water temperature from rising in warm weather, the paint gives a light color to reflect the heat. And if stored water is for use with fog irrigation or sprinklers above 20C, do not use it. & # 39;

Research shows one in five cars with only water in their wiper reservoir, instead of an additional antibacterial screen cleaning, with traces of deadly legionella that is sprayed into the air every time the screen is cleaned.

The dangers of inhalation increase when car windows are open. Up to one in five legionella infections can occur this way.

And simply opening a bag of compost for the garden can cause a deadly infection. The warm, humid conditions – and the abundance of nutrients – are perfect for a certain type of legionella. The RHS warns against opening compost bags with your face straight over them and make sure you close the bags when you are finished.

And what about showers?

Dr. Makin says: & # 39; If you have not used the shower for more than three or four days, let it run for 20 minutes with both soft and cold taps on.

& # 39; If you have a flexible hose, place the shower head directly above the flush hole – this way no droplets are generated in the air.

& # 39; If not, close the door behind you and do not go back for at least 20 minutes or until all the water droplets are scattered in the air. & # 39;

Ever wondered why …

… do you get that restless feeling in your legs?

A feeling of & # 39; scary-teeming & # 39; legs is caused by a stomach problem. Scientists discovered that people who regularly suffer from tingling, sore legs & night – or restless legs syndrome – have an imbalance of bacteria in their gut. A team from Stanford University studied stool and breath samples from patients and discovered that they had a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The condition is believed to reduce iron levels in the brain, a known trigger for the syndrome.

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