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Water treatment reduces risk of Legionnaires'

WASHINGTON, DC May 21, 2003 One county's change in its municipal water treatment system may have significantly reduced its risk from Legionnaires' disease, say researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They present their findings today at the 103rd General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

"The bacteria responsible for Legionnaires' disease, legionellae, cause the disease when a susceptible person inhales aerosolized water contaminated with the bacteria. Sources of such water include showers, faucets, cooling towers and whirlpool spas. In buildings, legionellae grow in the biofilm or slime which develops within plumbing systems of buildings. Currently, there are no community interventions that have been shown to reduce the risk of Legionnaires' disease," says Barry Fields of the CDC, one of the researchers.

Fields and his colleagues looked at the effect of the decision of Pinellas County, Florida to change from chlorine to monochloramine to treat their municipal water supply. While treating the county water supply with chlorine, 20% of buildings tested for legionellae bacteria were positive. One month after the county converted its treatment to monochloramine the proportion of positive sites fell significantly to only 6% of buildings tested.

"These findings suggest that the use of monochloramine can drastically reduce legionellae in drinking water supplies and possibly prevent outbreaks of the disease," says Fields.

Previous studies conducted by the CDC have shown that municipalities that use monochloramine to treat their water supply were much less likely to have outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease than those using chlorine. Findings from the Pinellas County study provide additional evidence that monochloramine may be the first community-based intervention strategy for the control of Legionnaires' disease. Additional studies are needed to confirm these findings and to ensure that th
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Contact: Jim Sliwa
jsliwa@asmusa.org
202-942-9297
American Society for Microbiology
21-May-2003


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