Legionella: mitigating risk and preventing outbreaks


Outbreaks of legionella – the bacteria that causes the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease – are still worryingly common. Just last year, we saw a highly disruptive outbreak in student accommodation at St Andrew’s University – while, in the US, Duke University reported around 84 cases of illness following exposure to the bacteria.

We must take every opportunity to stop the spread of legionella – not only due to its potentially deadly effects but also due to the financial and legal ramifications that universities, hospitals, and similar organisations can face in its wake.

Fortunately, Internet of Things (IoT) technology – devices capable of communicating with each other and sharing information from remote locations – can provide facilities managers for places like universities with new ways to minimise the potential for future outbreaks.

This new form of risk mitigation hinges on monitoring water temperature. Legionella grows best in stagnant water at temperatures ranging from 20° to 45°c – and even if no outbreaks occur, there are significant penalties in place for failing to mitigate.

IoT monitoring devices can solve this problem in a cost-effective way. We’re all aware that IoT devices like smart thermostats are well suited to temperature monitoring, and a similar principle applies to water in organisations like universities.

By installing IoT devices on circulating loops close to sentinel points, water temperatures can be continuously assessed, removing any chance of human error and providing facilities managers with the peace of mind that legionella risk mitigation is well in hand.

Embracing this low-cost and effective application of IoT technology can ensure that outbreaks of potentially fatal diseases like Legionnaire’s become a thing of the past.