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Legionella Found in School Water Systems Following Lockdown

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A number of schools across the United States have found Legionella bacteria in their water over the past few weeks. A new report from the New York Times found that schools reopening across the United States could face outbreaks of the waterborne Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaire’s disease. The bacteria can form in stagnant water and then disperse through the air and be inhaled when the water is running again.

Experts worry that water in schools have been left stagnant since the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to shut down in March, and that schools don’t have plans or effective guidance from health authorities for dealing with the effects of prolonged shutdowns. The usual guard against Legionella is by flushing the water, and then testing the water for bacteria, although some schools don’t have the budget to run such tests.

In Ohio, officials found Legionella at five schools in an assortment of towns. Shortly thereafter, a district in Pennsylvania also announced it had found Legionella at four of its schools. The C.D.C. has issued guidelines for business and building reopening’s after coronavirus lockdowns. A spokeswoman from the agency said that its guidelines are “applicable to all types of buildings,” including schools. But the vagueness of many of the guidelines, according to experts in the field, means that schools can do as much or as little of general preventive steps and claim to be compliant. Caitlin Proctor, a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue who has been studying Legionella during lockdown, said that despite the use of chlorine, the bacteria’s biofilms can protect some of them from disappearing completely.

Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/27/health/covid-schools-legionnaires-disease.html

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