Wave of disease in Warstein: Legionella are everywhere in our water
In the past weeks, numerous people in the Soest area had been infected with Legionella. At least two of them died. Legionella are common, but the bacteria only become dangerous in large quantities.
Two deaths Since August 10, 165 people in Warstein have been infected with Legionella and are being treated. Two of them had to be cared for in the intensive care unit and two men died from the disease. Legionellosis is assumed to be the reason for another death. A travel warning was issued for the district of Soest at the end of last month and is valid until September 16. The crisis team said that the protective measures had not yet been completed.
Cooling systems as Legionella sources Since the bacteria are transmitted through fine water droplets in the air, air conditioning and cooling systems are often the focus of the search because they represent typical Legionella sources. Epidemics would find it there in 80 to 90 percent of the cases. Fountains or sprinklers are also possible sources. In Warstein, cooling systems had to be reported after the illnesses had occurred and in late August a cooling system was actually tested positive for Legionella.
German Drinking Water Ordinance Legionella are bacteria that live in water and can be found almost everywhere in our environment. In low concentrations, this is not dangerous for humans. In the German Drinking Water Ordinance, a value of 100 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of water is laid down as a limit. If this value is exceeded, the affected system must be examined and samples taken.
Legionella find in Warsteiner brewery Several legionella flocks have so far been found in the district of Soest. On the one hand there were positive samples from a local cooling system and on the other hand the Legionella find in the Warsteiner brewery. A spokesman for the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of the Environment said that the brewery's wastewater supply to the Warstein wastewater treatment plant was also contaminated. Local wastewater treatment plants and the small river Wester are affected, where the values have even been exceeded a thousand times. The same strain of bacteria was found in all of these places as the one that was also found in the patients at the Warsteiner Hospital. “But the chain between sewage treatment plant, brewery, cooling system and river can go on. What is the original source is still unclear, ”said a Federal Environment Agency spokesman.
3,000 deaths per year Because microbiological distribution is complicated and difficult to calculate, it is also difficult to trace the path of the bacteria. If the legionella is found positive, it remains unclear whether the source was found or just a link in a chain that continues. It is therefore not clear in Warstein whether the brewery is the source or whether the sewage treatment plant may have been contaminated with the air. The spokesman for the Federal Environment Agency said that another problem is that no one knows where the classic contagion centers are. A list of places, in which municipalities list all evaporative cooling systems, is therefore useful. This would also speed up the search for Legionella and reduce the number of illnesses. It is estimated that around 3,000 deaths a year after a legionella infection occur in Germany.
Beer not harmful to health In Warstein, the brewery's recooling plant is still under surveillance by the authorities. The state environment ministry has also imposed a number of special requirements, such as that the clarifiers have to be covered and the affected areas are disinfected with chlorine-containing substances or UV light. It is only about the sewage system, this does not affect beer production. The state environment ministry emphasizes that the beer is not harmful to health. The brewing process was checked and no Legionella contamination was found.
Legionella do not like colder water It is still unclear how the germs came into operation. In addition to the measures initiated, Legionella infestation in the river will now also be positively influenced by autumn temperatures. The spokesman for the Federal Environment Agency said: "The water is now much colder than in August, Legionella do not like that." However, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has nevertheless prohibited water from the Wester.
No contagion from person to person It is still unclear how the infected people get infected. The patients would not know each other and the spread of legionella could be ruled out anyway. Assumptions are made, such as that the sick people inhaled water vapor in the vicinity of the affected cooling system when they passed it. Non-specific symptoms, which cannot be clearly assigned to the disease, appear in infected people. In the beginning, fever and chills develop in most patients - often relatively suddenly. In addition, there are muscle pains, mainly in the chest area, and coughing irritation. In the further course, shortness of breath, headache, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and isolated neurological deficits can be observed.
Always legionnaires in the water There is always legionella in our water. This is not a problem as long as the bacteria do not find suitable conditions, such as warm temperatures, to multiply. There are various regulations in Germany to prevent Legionella infestation. For example, water tanks that hold more than 400 liters must have temperatures of at least 60 degrees Celsius at the tank outlet, because only then will Legionella bacteria in the water be reliably killed. And so that the bacteria can no longer reproduce, the rest of the pipe system should be at least 55 degrees Celsius. The operators of such large plants are obliged by the Drinking Water Ordinance to check water samples for Legionella every three years and the tenants must be informed in the event of any abnormalities.
No fear of Warsteiner drinking water The inhabitants of Warstein don't have to be afraid of their drinking water; it is not affected by the infestation. All herds known to date are monitored. There is also no danger from food, everything could be eaten safely, since legionella do not spread through it. In addition, in the water cycle of one- and two-family houses, these germs are rarely infected. Larger systems with longer pipes and larger amounts of water in the system are more at risk. The standards that apply to larger systems should also be adhered to in the private sector, for example by setting the hot water boiler to 60 to 80 degrees Celsius. (ad)
Image: Sebastian Karkus / pixelio.de