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Legionnaires’ disease is making a comeback. More than 40 years after the illness first struck a Philadelphia hotel in 1976, institutional and commercial facilities are experiencing a rise in reports of outbreaks and illnesses. The number of people with Legionnaires’ disease grew by nearly five times from 2000-2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The resurgence of the disease presents several challenges for maintenance and engineering managers and their peers responsible for ensuring the indoor health of key facility systems. They must understand the conditions that can help Legionella bacteria flourish, as well as the equipment and components that are most likely to harbor it. Perhaps most importantly, they need to understand the steps they and their organizations can take to manage key systems more effectively in order to prevent outbreaks.
The bacterium Legionella can cause a form of pneumonia known as Legionnaire’s disease or a form of influenza know as Pontiac Fever. This pathogen poses a health risk only when certain conditions are present:
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