All residents of the residential complex in Altenerding at Fred-Hartmann-Weg 1 to 9 are strictly banned from showering for at least a month, possibly longer. Legionella have been found in the water pipes, sometimes in extremely high concentrations. You have to take that very seriously, says Ralph Schröder from the microbiological laboratory in Dachau, where a routine check revealed the high level of Legionella contamination. The bacteria cause flu-like illnesses to severe pneumonia and are potentially life-threatening. “We have a large number of Legionella deaths in Germany every year,” says Ralph Schröder. The water samples from the residential complex on Fred-Hartmann-Weg were taken at the end of May. For residential buildings with three or more parties, an inspection every three years is required by law.
The first and most important measure to avoid becoming infected is the ban on showering, which has been in effect since Friday. Because when showering, the pathogens can easily be inhaled via the spray mist. This problem does not arise when washing at the sink or in the bathtub. There is no human-to-human transmission.
Legionella can be found everywhere in water in low concentrations. In residential complexes, there is typically an increase, says Ralph Schröder, when lukewarm water stagnates in the pipes – because an apartment has been empty for months or a resident, for whatever reason, does not use any water. The pathogens then spread back into the entire service system from the contaminated, standing end lines, explains Ralph Schröder.
Not every resident noticed the shower ban right away
The ban on showering was announced last Friday by the property management via the exit at the entrances to the residential complex. But not everyone noticed it right away. A resident who is particularly at risk because of chronic lung disease only found out about legionella and the shower ban two days later from a neighbor who lived in a completely different house. “I hardly ever leave my apartment,” the man told the SZ. And the employees of the nursing service, who come to him every day, had not looked at the notice either. On Monday he asked a nurse to read what was written there. Now he knows about it and doesn’t shower anymore.
The letter from the Dachau microbiological laboratory reads quite drastically, because it speaks of an “extremely high contamination of the plant”. In addition to the shower ban, the property management would “immediately initiate measures to eliminate legionella contamination,” it said. The property management does not want to provide any information on request. However, the SZ has current letters from the Erding health department and the property management.
The procedure in the event of a Legionella infestation is precisely regulated. In its e-mail to the property management, the health department first and foremost points out that all residents “must be informed immediately (within 24 hours at the latest) about the ban on showering”. It is indirectly made clear that a notice may not be sufficient: “Since you may not necessarily be aware of all individual risk-increasing factors or illnesses of the affected consumers, you must therefore inform the consumers as early as possible so that they have the possibility of individual self-protection be able to perceive in time.”
Engineering office commissioned with risk analysis
The property management informed the apartment owners in an email that the company that maintains the hot water system was informed on Friday and that an engineering office was commissioned to carry out a so-called risk analysis. After an inspection on Monday, “if possible, a so-called thermal disinfection should be carried out”.
This is the method of choice: the water is heated much more than normal to kill legionella. In order for this to work, however, the residents have to help. All plumbing connections must “run alternately between hot and cold for approximately one minute, fully open”. All residents must be informed about this in a very specific and complete manner, each one personally and, if necessary, with translations into different languages. After thermal disinfection, a follow-up examination is carried out, which again takes some time. If things go well, you can shower again in a month.
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