How Temperature Plays a Crucial Role in Legionnaires’ Disease

7 December 2016, 18:06

Think of temperature and you might think of a boiling kettle, a hot summer’s day or the coldest winter’s day with snow lying on the ground. Chances are you wouldn’t think of bacteria multiplying at the best temperature for them to do so.

When it comes to the legionella bacterium, the temperature range is very clear. It’s known that legionella must have a temperature range with a minimum of 20 degrees Celsius and a maximum of 45 degrees Celsius to be able to readily multiply. This equates to between 68 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the temperature drops below the minimum level required for the bacteria to grow, it will fall into a dormant state. It will remain that way unless and until the temperature rises to within the acceptable range. If it should go beyond the upper limit for temperatures, the bacteria would die.

Hence why some hot and cold water systems need to be checked regularly in accordance with health and safety law. If this is not done, people nearby or those using the systems could fall ill. Legionnaires’ disease can be a fatal illness, although most of those who contract this type of pneumonia will survive. Those who don’t tend to be elderly or already ill when they take in the bacteria and fall ill with Legionnaires’ disease.

It’s generally accepted that private residences aren’t at significant risk from legionella bacteria. However, businesses with cooling towers, hot and cold water systems and other similar equipment must perform regular checks to ensure everything is being done to prevent the spread of this bacteria. Checking the temperature of the water, treating the water and making sure the equipment is in good condition are just three of the things that should be done on a regular basis.

It’s not just industrial settings that can be affected by this, either. Even something as simple and innocent as a hot tub must be checked and treated in the correct way to avoid contamination. Most people don’t have to worry about legionella or its spread, but if you work somewhere that uses hot and/or cold water systems, you now know they should be checked frequently.

It’s to be expected that temperature plays a part in how well bacteria can live and thrive. Different bacteria can react to different temperatures too, so while legionella can thrive in the above temperatures, other types of bacteria could die. It’s also interesting to note the average body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius. This means if someone was infected by legionella bacteria, it could survive very well inside the body – hence why expert medical treatment is necessary.