Cantabrians are being urged to follow
some simple steps in order to avoid getting a serious illness linked to
Dr Daniel Williams, Canterbury Medical
Officer of Health, says October corresponds with the beginning of Canterbury’s
“In October every year the number of
people with Legionnaires’ disease begins to climb. Numbers peak in November and
December, remain relatively high through January and February, and then taper
off in March,” Dr Williams says.
He says the seasonal surge is mostly
linked to gardeners catching Legionnaires' disease from potting mix or
“After a long winter it’s great getting
back into the garden and enjoying the warmer weather and longer days, but please
make sure you avoid inhaling the dust from potting mix or compost as this can be
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of
pneumonia. It’s caused by bacteria called legionella that lives in warm, moist
“You can catch the disease by inhaling
airborne droplets or particles containing the bacteria,” Dr Williams
“The illness may be mild but can
sometimes be fatal. It is more common in older people, particularly if they
smoke, have poor immunity or a chronic illness.”
Symptoms include dry coughing, high
fever, chills, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, excessive
sweating, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
“Anyone who gets these symptoms should see their general practice team right away and let them know if you have been handling potting mix or compost,” Dr Williams says.
Gardeners are at particular risk of
catching Legionnaires' disease as the bacterium Legionella can be present in
potting mix and compost.
important gardeners follow five simple steps to avoid catching Legionnaires’
disease from potting mix or compost:
1. Open potting mix carefully – use
scissors instead of ripping the bags
2. Wear a disposable face mask and gloves,
and open the bag away from your face
3. Do your potting in a well-ventilated
4. Dampen down the potting mix or compost
with a sprinkle of water to reduce dust
5. Wash your hands thoroughly after
handling potting mix or gardening.
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