Illawarra residents are being urged to take precautions when gardening and cleaning around stagnant water sources, as the warm weather increases the risk of Legionnaires’ disease.
Legionnaires' disease is an infection of the lungs (pneumonia) caused by bacteria of the Legionella family.
Infection occurs when a person breathes in bacteria commonly found in the environment. Bacteria can grow to high numbers in warm, stagnant water and is often found in soil and potting mix.
Across the Illawarra-Shoalhaven there were nine cases of Legionellosis during 2018. Three isolated incidences of Legionellosis were reported in December 2018.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District acting director of public health Diane Lovatt said simple precautions can reduce the likelihood of becoming infected.
“Wear a mask when handling potting mixes and soils or water that has been sitting still for long periods, such as in bird baths and fountains, and be sure to wash your hands after, particularly before eating, drinking or smoking,” she said.
Ms Lovatt said people who do become sick usually experience symptoms two to 10 days after being exposed to the bacteria.
“Symptoms can include fever, chills, a cough and shortness of breath,” she said. “While some people with Legionella can become very sick with pneumonia, most recover quickly with appropriate antibiotic treatment.”
Anyone experiencing symptoms who think they may have been exposed to Legionella should see their GP or visit a medical centre.