Why hotels can be a haven for Legionella

Over 40 years ago the first known outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease occurred at a hotel in Philadelphia. With more than 130 people infected and almost 40 patients dying as a result, it made headlines around the world and ultimately led to the closure of the hotel. The American Legion was holding a three-day convention at the hotel, with over 2,000 Legionnaire delegates in attendance. Little did they know that being caught up in the outbreak would lead to the eponymous naming of this newly identified, deadly respiratory condition.

Sadly for the industry, this was the first of many instances of Legionnaires’ disease originating in a hotel, with one of the latest occurring at the Graceland Hotel in Memphis. We know a lot more about Legionella bacteria and the problems it causes now, but control of Legionella is still a primary concern for hotels, guesthouses and a range of accommodation and leisure facilities. We count among our clients the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), for whom we provide Legionella control services (see case study) as well as training for their maintenance staff, so are well-placed to understand the particular issues relating to Legionella control in such buildings.

Water is a vital resource for hotels, and goes far beyond being used just in kitchens and bathrooms. Ornamental fountains and water features, fish tanks, swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, outdoor showers, garden sprinkler systems, even waterparks, help to create a particular ambience and give each hotel the ‘wow factor’ to keep guests coming back. From a Legionella control perspective, all this liquid loveliness needs to be managed carefully to ensure that it doesn’t become a health hazard though, and that means a rigorous programme of cleaning, maintenance and remedial work, as well as constant vigilance.

For IHG our training programme acts as a regular refresher for all their relevant staff to ensure that there is no room for complacency. Aside from the regular programme of monitoring and control measures in place (temperature checking, tank cleaning, descaling, flushing outlets in under-occupied rooms etc.), it’s also about keeping eyes and ears open to potential problems. Joined up thinking is required, so that the maintenance team works closely with everyone from housekeeping and catering to the spa manager and gardeners. Broken fittings, rusty pipes, areas of flooding or other contamination of the water system are all hazards which can allow Legionella to enter and thrive in the hotel’s plumbing.

In a building like a large hotel, the size and complexity of the property presents a particular set of challenges. Many miles of pipework, much of it hidden from view, needs to be looked after. There will likely be a myriad of water storage tanks, a fire safety sprinkler system, not to mention hundreds of baths and showers. There is likely to be an air conditioning system throughout the building too, and probably an extensive fitness suite with water-based facilities. To compound matters, each day new guests arrive from all over the world, bringing with them their own particular risk level relating to their age, health and lifestyle.  With all this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that recent travel is one of the primary factors considered when a person has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

At a time of year when many people are on holiday and enjoying the facilities of hotels around the world, it’s worth bearing in mind the enormous task of Legionella control behind the scenes. A well-run hotel should have a comprehensive plan in place to maintain high levels of water hygiene, but you can be sure that if your accommodation looks tatty and uncared for, it’s likely that Legionella control may be neglected too.

If you work in the hotel sector and are concerned about water hygiene issues, contact us for advice and full details of our accredited services. We can help safeguard the wellbeing of your guests and staff, as well as protect your reputation now and in the long term. Email [email protected] or call 01732 74300.

Article originally published https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-hotels-can-haven-legionella-james-homard/