Air conditioning: what is legionellosis, this deadly disease that can be caused by a lack of maintenance?

With temperatures around 35°C or even 40°C, air conditioning is a huge success. However, dangers associated with its use exist and can kill you.

Respiratory diseases, thermal shock… Air conditioning has some dangers that it is better not to ignore. If the cooling of the air is too great, the respiratory mucous membranes become irritated and are more likely to be infected by viruses or other bacteria. This is, for example, the case during summer angina. On the other hand, if these risks are relatively benign, the lack of maintenance of your air conditioning can have much more serious consequences.

Transmission of severe pneumonia that can be fatal

When air conditioning systems are not maintained properly, they can contain microbes that they will then circulate, report our colleagues from L’Alsace. In particular, they can expose you to legionellosis, a potentially fatal bacterial pneumonia.

The bacteria in question, of the genus Legionella, are present in “numerous hot freshwater sources”, according to the Pasteur Institute. They may be in your air conditioning if the system uses water to cool the air. This type of system is very widely found in hotels, hospitals and other large establishments. If the water is contaminated, the high temperatures allow bacteria to proliferate, then circulating in the air through microdroplets.

What symptoms?

The symptoms are similar to those of the flu: “fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing and sometimes other signs such as nausea or confusion”, lists the Ministry of Health. After confirmation of the diagnosis by urine analysis, blood test or lung samples, legionellosis is treated with antibiotics. Most affected patients “must be taken care of in hospital”, adds the ministry. In 2014, 1,348 cases of legionellosis were notified in France, of which 122 led to death.

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