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Reopened Schools Find Health Risks in Their Water System After Coronavirus Lockdowns

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(NYT) A number of schools found the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease in their water, and experts say more should expect to see.

The new coronavirus is not the only illness that teachers, students, parents and staff will have to worry about as some schools attempt to reopen this fall. Legionella could lurk in the water supplies of school buildings, and some measures to keep people in schools safe from coronavirus may even increase risks from deadly illnesses caused by the bacteria.

Last week in Ohio, officials found Legionella at five schools in an assortment of towns. On Friday, a district in Pennsylvania also announced it had found Legionella at four of its schools.

“It is unusual to hear about nine schools in a one-week period having a detection of Legionella,” said Andrew Whelton, an associate professor of civil, environmental and ecological engineering at Purdue University in Indiana who has been studying the effects of lockdown on water systems. He said that more schools may be testing for the bacteria than in a typical year.

Legionella, usually Legionella pneumophila, is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, a respiratory condition. It can form in stagnant water and then disperse through the air and be inhaled when, for example, a shower or tap is turned on. It can be fatal in one in 10 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although young children are less at risk of Legionnaires’, older students, adults and people with compromised immune systems are vulnerable.

From New York Times

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