As schools and sports facilities reopen, they may face a respiratory threat in addition to COVID-19.
Legionella — the bacteria that causes legionnaires disease — has been detected in several schools near Dayton, Ohio and in a pittsburgh suburb, staff and students there temporarily using bottled water.
Derek Coatney, parent:
“These things happen with old buildings or buildings that aren’t used often, so I mean we trust the experts that they flushed the system.”
Legionella can form in stagnant water — from locker room shower heads to drinking fountains to classroom sinks that have gone unused longer than usual due to the pandemic.
It spreads through mist when those water sources are turned back on and if inhaled, can result in legionnaires disease.
Dr. Alan Taege, Cleveland Clinic:
“It’s cough, fever, shortness of breath and unfortunately sounds a lot like COVID. So it may be a little difficult to differentiate.”
Younger, healthy people exposed to legionella are less likely to get sick than older adults — and those with weakened immune systems. Those who do are generally treated with antibiotics — But the illness can be fatal.
“It’s not something people need to have a heightened fear of, but just a respect.”
The CDC has issued guidelines for reopening buildings after prolonged shutdowns that it says can apply to schools. Including testing — and flushing water systems.
Steps schools in multiple states are now taking to keep students — and staff safe.