Legionnaires' disease: danger of Legionella in poorly visited hotel facilities
If hotels are not fully occupied, there may be health consequences that guests do not think about at first. If water pipes are not used regularly, dangerous bacteria such as legionella colonize in the hot water pipes. The following legionnaires' disease can lead to death. Simple precautions can reduce the risk of infection.
Danger in barely occupied hotels
According to health experts from the German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine in Werne, there could be dangers in poorly used hotels. If the room occupancy is low, the water pipes are hardly used. This is important, however, because otherwise bacterial strains of Legionella can multiply in the pipes and can reach an extent that is dangerous for humans. The same dangers exist not only in the water pipes but also in air conditioning systems and less used whirlpools. If they are not operated continuously, bacteria that trigger legionellosis will also be found there. "Mainly affected are lines with so-called stagnations - in which the water often stands because it is not used, so that biofilms can easily form," explains Dr. Dieter Köhler from the German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine.
Legionnaires' disease with dire consequences
Legionellosis can occur in different ways. The best known and most common infectious disease is Legionnaires' disease, which can be severe and life-threatening for humans. Similar to seasonal flu, most patients initially experience high fever with chills, muscle pain, especially in the area of the chest (chest pain), dry, irritable cough, sometimes with later blood sputum. In addition, there are in many cases headaches, body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and neurological failures. The death rate is particularly high in patients with a weakened immune system. But so-called Pontiac fever can also develop and in rare cases infections of the inner lining of the heart or inflammation of the renal pelvis follow. So that the disease is not provoked, even small precautionary measures help.
Measure: Let the water run, leave the room, close and ventilate
Prof. Dr. Koehler, who is also the medical director of the lung clinic at Grafschaft Grafschaft in Schmallenberg, advises hotel visitors to turn on the taps and let the water run for a few minutes before using a shower, bathtub or brushing their teeth. This frees the lines from the accumulated bacteria and flushes them out. The note applies especially to guest houses or hotels that are obviously underused. However, because this is not always obvious, the preventive advice should apply in general. But be careful: Hotel visitors can become infected with the pathogens as soon as they let the taps run. For this reason, Köhler advises that you hold your breath in the bathroom, then leave the room and lock the door. After the process, it is important to ventilate the bathroom well.
A current case from a hotel in "Costa Blanca" shows how important the warning is. There 15 vacationers got infected with Legionella. Three patients have already died as a result of the disease. According to some experts, "simple hyperchlorination of tap water does not seem to be sufficient". This was namely only carried out in the hotel concerned at the beginning of January this year. The bacteria were found again a few days later. The hotel was initially closed and will only open again after intensive disinfection.
Many laypeople as well as doctors assume that the occurrence of Legionnaires' disease is limited to warm vacation countries. But that's not correct, warns Koehler. For the "flourishing of the bacteria it is not the ambient temperature that is responsible, but the temperature in the water pipe." There are also numerous houses in Germany "with temporarily stagnant hot water pipes". A major danger is that the disease is often recognized too late. However, if antibiotic medication can be administered quickly, the chances of a quick recovery also increase. Nevertheless, the death rate is between 10 and 15 percent. (sb)
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