You've Got What?
How infectious diseases are spread and simple and practical advice for preventing the spread of infection in the home and community
Many different species of bacteria called Legionella are commonly found in the environment and some of these are known to cause illness in people. Infection by Legionella causes a disease known as legionellosis.
Legionella longbeachae infection is a notifiable condition1
Legionella longbeachae (L. longbeachae) can be found in potting mixes, compost heaps and composted animal manures. How L. longbeachae are spread is uncertain, but it is thought that they are breathed in or spread from hand to mouth. The bacteria can remain on hands contaminated by handling potting mix for periods of up to 1 hour. They can be readily removed from the hands by washing. Legionella infection cannot be caught from other people or animals. The risk of L. longbeachae infection is not limited to gardeners, but the use of potting mixes, composts and other soils puts them at greater risk.
L. longbeachae generally causes infection of the lung (pneumonia), which is a severe illness.
Symptoms of Legionella infection may include:
People of any age may be infected, but the disease is more common in middle aged and older people and people whose immune system is weak. Men are affected more frequently than women.
Risk of infection is increased by:
Diagnosis is usually made by a series of blood tests. The bacteria may sometimes be grown from a sample of sputum (phlegm) or lung fluid, or detected using other special tests.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
2 to 10 days, usually 5 to 6 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Person-to-person spread does not occur.
Antibiotic treatment may be prescribed by the treating doctor. Some cases may require admission to hospital.
Exclusion from childcare, preschool, school or work is not necessary.
To minimise the risk of exposure when handling garden mixes (bagged or unbagged) such as potting mix, mulches, composts and garden soils, gardeners should take the following precautions:
Additional measures that can be taken to reduce risk include wearing a face mask and gloves.
1 – In South Australia the law requires doctors and laboratories to report some infections or diseases to SA Health. These infections or diseases are commonly referred to as 'notifiable conditions'.