Oct 26, 2018 3 min read

What Can We Learn from This Latest Legionella Scare?

Updated: Nov 16, 2018

 Outbreaks of Legionella Plague the Country of Italy

Outbreaks of Legionella Plague the Country of Italy


Being of Italian descent, I am always interested in happenings are handled in Italy. I wonder how my distant cousins are managing celebrations, world news reports and their own national crisis.


As someone who works in the water industry and helps to educate building owners and individuals about ways to keep structures safe and protected against Legionella Pneumophila, or Legionnaires’ Disease, I was scouring each and every news report I found on the latest Legionella scare in Italy. Headlines such as:


Three Dead in Legionella Outbreak Near Milan


Legionella Bacteria Confirmed in Pneumonia Patients in Northern Italy




Legionella Epidemic in Italy Kills Third Victim as 24 Battle Disease


kept me reading and reading all the while looking for similarities on how we handle this type of panic in the United States. I couldn’t help but wonder, how my distant cousins might be handling this environmental scare. Over 400 people in Brescia suffered symptoms of pneumonia in recent weeks, and 42 cases of pneumonia were confirmed to have been caused by legionella. Would Italians given into a sad American way, where it is known we as a society sue at the drop of a hat? I truly hoped Italians would instead band together to find the cause and work to halt the spread of the bacterium in its tracks.


I was greatly disappointed when I read the most recent news article out of Italy: “prosecutors have opened an investigation to determine culpability for the outbreak”. Well of course they have, I thought. I can picture my pasta loving cousins searching for anyone near Brescia who might have a slight cough and handing them the business card of a commercial staring lawyer nearby. The realities are the same here as they are in Italy. Someone is always looking to place blame, and maybe while they are at it, monetarily benefit from a tragedy.


It has, and will continue to be, the part of my job that I love the most: educating others on how easily Legionnaires’ Disease can be prevented. Just plan ahead. Our government, though much behind our European predecessors in this domain, has begun to issue mandates that require facilities and buildings to protect their patients, customers and employees from this grave disease. It is simple. Take the time to gather a team of your colleagues and develop a water management plan that protects and reduces risk, illness, and of course helps to manage your liability. If you are unaware of how to develop a plan, visit the CDC toolkit: get started and also speak with professionals in the water management field who know how to develop defensible plans. Be proactive. At the very least, test all of your potable water sources quarterly to see if legionella bacteria are present. Lastly, know what to do when and if Legionella is detected in your facility and arm your staff with procedures to keep all customers, patients and employees protected.


Of all I have learned about appreciating family, making a delicious pasta sauce, and playing Bocce Ball from the Italians that have come before me, I now know that they too, deal with environmental tragedy similar to how we in America do today.


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