In October, there were no reports of new Legionnaires’ outbreaks, with the press more concerned about the risks of the legionella bacteria. With many countries observing a second lockdown, there is concern about the increased opportunities for the bacteria to grow in the pipes of unused commercial premises. Given the similarities of Legionnaires’ disease and COVID-19, there are worries that the pandemic is masking the true extent of Legionnaires’.
Are you insured?
The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) has produced a good practice guide about the risk of the legionella bacteria. It is urging members to make sure that public liability policies for commercial clients covers them for Legionnaires’ disease – this is particularly important when their premises reopen after Lockdown. The worry is that the current wording of standard public liability policies means that Legionnaires’ disease falls into an exclusion clause. Therefore, they would not be insured if there was an outbreak. We recommend that if you are not sure about your own insurance, check with your provider.
Nothing to report in Wales
Good news in Wales, the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that has affected the town of Barry since August 2019 has now gone. Eleven cases had been identified in the town over a period of 13 months, but Public Health Wales confirmed that in October there were no new cases. Even after an extensive investigation, the cause of the cluster has not been identified and there’s no evidence that any of the cases are linked. In the meantime, the authorities are advising businesses, landlords and individuals to take precautions, and ensure good practice to reduce the chances of the legionella bacteria being able to spread.
In the USA on the other hand…
The Smithsonian magazine reported that Legionnaires’ disease is gaining traction in the USA. Despite having one of the safest drinking water systems in the world, incidents of Legionnaires’ disease have been on the rise. In Columbus, Ohio, five healthcare facilities have reported outbreaks since May 2019. And worries about the disease have increased since the pandemic, mainly due to the stagnation of water in pipes during lockdown.
However, some scientists are concerned that people who have been infected by the COVID-19 virus could be more susceptible to Legionella. Indeed, the symptoms of the two diseases are similar and the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease is worried about a 50% decline in reported Legionnaires’ cases. This comes at a time when the risk factors are greater and experts anticipate a rise in the number of cases. They are urging public health officials to properly assess the risks.