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Legionella Risks Lurking in Cruise Ships and Other Vessels

March 31, 2018 Cruise, Headline News No Comments Email Email

According to information posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1977 through 2012 there were at least 83 ship-associated cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported in the literature. These included outbreaks on eight ships and at least six deaths.

While most people taking a cruise or working on a commercial vessel probably don’t think about Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, anyone with a weakened or suppressed immune system is vulnerable to becoming infected if they breathe in a mist or water droplets that have been contaminated with Legionella. This type of bacteria can be found naturally in the environment and sometimes in manmade sources of warm water. On ships, these sources could include water tanks, fountains and other water features, hot tubs, and even from water coming out of a showerhead.

“Senior citizens make up a significant portion of a typical cruise ship’s passenger list,” said Jason Dobranic, Ph.D., Vice President of Microbiology and Life Sciences at EMSL Analytical, Inc. “One of the groups most susceptible to exposure to Legionella are individuals who are 65 years of age or older. Other groups include smokers, people with chronic lung disease, and individuals with a weakened immune system. This is just one of the reasons that verifying the effectiveness of water disinfection procedures on cruise ships or any type of vessel is so important.”

Proactive testing for Legionella can help to identify exposure risks on ships so any sources of the bacteria can be treated. Environmental testing is also instrumental for identifying the source of an outbreak if one has already occurred.

To test for Legionella and other microbial pathogens, EMSL Analytical, Inc. has 20 laboratories that have received the CDC’s Certificate of Proficiency from the agency’s ELITE Program for Legionella testing. In addition, five locations are NYSDOH ELAP Legionella certified laboratories. EMSL offers traditional culturing methods and advanced PCR and DNA sequencing methods along with all the sampling supplies necessary to properly collect and submit samples.

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