Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

UAE residents urged to run taps after holiday to prevent dangerous disease

Stagnant water in pipework can lead to legionnaires’ disease

Stagnent water left in pipes can lead to the build up of dangerous bacteria. Getty Images
Stagnent water left in pipes can lead to the build up of dangerous bacteria. Getty Images

A UAE doctor advised residents returning from holiday to run their taps and showers to reduce the risk of spreading dangerous bacteria around the home.

Dr Fernanda Bonilla said stagnant water in pipework and some vapour-based air-conditioning systems could pose a threat to health.

Although cases are rare in the Emirates, soaring summer temperatures can lead to conditions where bacteria that cause legionnaires’ disease thrive.

Frequent maintenance of water systems can help reduce the risk.

About 10 per cent of those infected with Legionnaires’ die, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.

“If you have been travelling, it is a good idea to run the shower for two minutes when you return to prevent the build-up of legionella,” said Dr Bonilla at Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi, who specialises in infectious diseases.

We have not seen any recent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in the region

Dr Fernanda Bonilla, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

“The bacteria can become aerosolised in small water droplets and, if breathed in, can cause legionnaires’ disease.”

Legionnaires’ is caused by bacteria most commonly found in freshwater environments such as lakes and creeks.

It can also be found in hosepipes and sprinkler systems, and thrives in stagnant water where temperatures are between 20°C and 45°C.

Most cases of the disease can be treated with antibiotics, but in some instances it can lead to potentially life-threatening complications such as respiratory failure.

The elderly, smokers and people with a weakened immune system are generally at greater risk.

In 2017, the US Department of Health reported almost 7,500 cases of legionnaires’ disease. Globally, there are about 10 to 15 cases detected per million people.

Symptoms of the disease are similar to those of pneumonia and include fever, chills, coughing, muscle aches and nausea.

Most people report symptoms a few days after being exposed to the legionella bacteria.

Signs of the disease can even appear two weeks after being exposed.

“The best way to prevent the disease is to ensure you take steps to maintain water systems and appliances in your home,” Dr Bonilla said.

“Making sure shower heads, faucets, hot tubs and air conditioners are properly cleaned is vital.”

In September last year, the German International School in Dubai was closed as a precaution after fears water systems were contaminated.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority took samples from the school and found no contamination, however.

Reported cases of Legionnaires’ diseaseare rare in the Middle East, but authorities in Dubai investigated a suspected outbreak at a luxury hotel in the emirate in 2009.

Three guests at the Westin Hotel showed symptoms of the disease, but experts from Europe and America did not find any signs of legionella bacteria.

“We have not seen any recent outbreaks of legionnaires’ disease in the region,” Dr Bonilla said.

“Due to its potentially serious nature, it is important to consult a doctor if you suspect you or a family member may have the disease.”

Updated: July 24, 2019 06:21 PM

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