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HB gardeners warned over risk of Legionnaires' with two cases reported - HBDHB

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Hawke’s Bay gardeners are being urged to take care with potting mix and compost following two people requiring hospital care in recent weeks diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Rachel Eyre said both cases of Legionnaires’, a serious and life-threatening disease, were investigated and likely caused from the inhalation of dust particles from potting mix

"Gardeners are at higher risk of catching Legionnaires’ disease as the Legionella bacteria which lives in moist organic material thrives in bags of potting mix and compost," said Dr Eyre.

"With people enjoying warmer weather and getting out in their gardens, it is important they understand the dangers of inhaling dust from potting mix or compost which can cause Legionnaires’ which is a form of pneumonia.

"Cases typically spike across New Zealand in early November, but in Hawke’s Bay we normally see cases notified from September onwards attributed to our increased gardening activity."

Dr Eyre said between 2015 and 2019, 16 Hawke’s Bay people had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’, 14 of which had needed hospital care.

Symptoms can include a cough, fever, chills, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, headaches, vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

Dr Eyre said Legionnaires’ can be fatal, but there were five simple actions people could do to avoid getting it.

The five steps are:

Work with potting mix or compost in a well-ventilated area outside.

Open bags of compost or potting mix carefully and away from your face using scissors.

Dampen down the potting mix or compost with a sprinkle of water to reduce dust.

Avoid touching your face. If possible wear a well-fitting disposable face mask and gloves but do not touch your mask while gardening.

Wash your hands thoroughly after handling potting mix or compost, or doing any gardening.

Dr Eyre says anyone could catch Legionnaires’, including healthy young people, but the disease was more common in older people, smokers, or those with poor immunity or a chronic illness.

Anyone with Legionnaires’ symptoms should seek medical help from their doctor immediately and advise they have been handling potting mix or compost recently.

Dr Eyre said both recent cases hospitalised had since fully recovered.

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