Legionella bacteria loves hot tubs and spa baths

Legionella bacteria

In Consumer Advice, Legionella, Public safety

The current coronavirus pandemic has had a strange effect on us Brits, but some would argue it’s nothing new. If medieval England’s mantra during the black death was ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’ then the 2020 coronavirus equivalent seems to be ‘Eat, drink and hoard toilet roll, for tomorrow we buy a hot tub.’

With many of us confined to our homes and gardens for the foreseeable, it seems the number one garden purchase is a portable hot tub. Available in inflatable or foam walled versions, these hot tubs are affordable and due to their size and portability, offer flexibility. However, it seems many are completely unaware of the dangers poor maintenance can bring.

Back last year, the CIPHE warned of the dangers posed by contracting Legionnaires’ disease from hot tubs, spa baths and even garden hoses in hot weather. The combination of warm weather and sitting (stagnant) water creates the perfect environment for Legionella bacteria to grow. Legionella is the cause of a potentially fatal form of pneumonia, Legionnaires’ disease, which is contracted by inhaling tiny water droplets. Figures from Public Health England showed a huge leap in Legionnaires cases last year, up from a yearly average of 500 to 814.

Kevin Wellman CIPHE CEO commented, “The growing popularity in hot tubs and spa baths means that many families now have a potential source of an outbreak within their homes and gardens. What people don’t realise is that these appliances need to be correctly installed and maintained, while also being regularly cleaned and chlorinated. Harmful Legionella bacteria can incubate in as little as 2-10 days, meaning that those who let their maintenance and disinfection regime slip, could be at risk.”

With the mild spring weather due to continue and summer on the horizon, there are real fears that Legionnaires Disease cases will continue to rise throughout 2020. The peek period for cases usually falls from June to October, meaning that the worst is still to come.

“Due to the use of different materials in tubs and baths, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy for disinfecting and maintaining systems”, warns Kevin. “It is vital that you follow your manufacturer’s instructions to the last word and are aware of all the costs involved in maintaining your product before you buy it. With yearly heating bills for some hot tubs hitting £600, consumers must not allow themselves to become victims of a temptation to cut corners and costs.”

So if you are thinking of making a hot tub purchase, make sure you do your homework first. While the initial purchase cost may be relatively cheap, maintenance costs can be hefty. Remember if you don’t maintain the system correctly, it could cost you the health of yourself and loved ones too.