According to Flinders University microbiologist Harriet Whiley, people with compromised immune systems are at most risk of contracting the disease, including elderly residents, heavy smokers and those with lung disease.
“It's particularly significant given our increasingly ageing population when you consider the growing number of elderly residents who wish to remain in independent living so they can stay a part of their existing communities for longer,” Dr Whiley said.
Legionnaire’s disease can be deadly, and occurs when a person breathes in mist that contains the bacteria. It can cause symptoms like cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains and headaches.
Dr Whiley explained that the research revealed a lack of public awareness about Legionella contamination, and believes that public health campaigns are necessary in order to educate vulnerable people.
Households can reduce the risk of contracting the bacteria in their water systems and shower heads by taking “simple steps” such as “increasing your hot water temperature and running showers every week to replenish the water sitting in pipes.”
In order to kill the bacteria, temperatures need to be set above 65C.
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