Windscreen washer water could cause Legionnaires' disease



Old windscreen wiper water could be the breeding ground for the bacteria which causes Legionnaires ' disease, the Health Protection Agency has reported.

It is thought that the stagnant water may be the cause of 20 percent of cases as professional drivers are five times more like to catch the rare disease, which can prove fatal.

The findings could prove a boon for screenwash manufacturers as the additive kills the bacteria. The government agency is advising drivers to make sure they regularly top up with the widely available fluid.
A pilot study conducted by the HPA found that traces of Legionella bacterium were present in one in five windscreen washer reservoirs that did not have screenwash in, but none of those that did.

The research was conducted after a questionnaire of people infected revealed those most at risk spent a lot of time in cars and vans in industrial areas with the window open.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Isabel Oliver, regional director of the HPA South West, said: "(Legionnaires' Disease) does not spread from person to person but is present in water environments and is breathed in when it gets into the air in fine particles or mist."

The disease may initially be mistaken as flu as it shares many early symptoms; including tiredness, muscle ache, fever and headaches. It is fatal in around 10 – 15 percent of sufferers.
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