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Deadly Legionnaires' bug is lurking at the CAR WASH. Two men became seriously ill with the disease after inhaling infected water droplets

posted 19 Feb 2018, 00:46 by Ian Clarenbone

Two men became seriously ill with Legionnaires' disease after inhaling infected water droplets from separate car washes in Italy, according to a study published in the journal Annals of Hygiene.

The incidents occurred in Italy, but could also take place in the UK,according to microbiologist Dr Tom Makin, a senior consultant at Legionella control.  He said: 'Legionella bacteria grow in large numbers in water systems that get warm and remain idle for extensive periods of time, such as drive-through car wash systems. Car washes are capable of generating the right sized aerosols that can be inhaled into the lungs where the Legionella bacteria cause infection, such as pneumonia. Some car washes have the additional problem of collecting wash water and recirculating it during further wash cycles. This can increase the amount of general debris and nutrients in the water which can help support the growth of bacteria.'  

And it is not just car-wash users who could be at risk. Dr Makin added: 'Aerosols generated by car washes can drift reasonable distances and if they are contaminated with Legionella they could be a source of infection to other people in the area.' 

Legionella bacteria thrive in warm, stagnant water, found at car washes. Most Legionnaires' disease sufferers become infected when they inhale tiny microscopic water droplets containing Legionella bacteria. Legionnaires' disease affects around 500 people a year in England alone and is fatal in approximately one in 10 cases.