Legionella outbreak and being safe in the garden

Regrettably there has been a legionella outbreak in Christchurch, tragically including one fatality. (Article on Stuff)

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Nursery & Garden Industry Association supports Ministry of Health Legionella guidelines

Following this week’s tragic news concerning recent cases of Legionella infection (legionellosis) in Christchurch, Nursery and Garden Industry New Zealand (NGINZ) endorses Ministry of Health guidelines on safe gardening.

“Not all those who come into contact with the bacteria become sick and symptoms will vary from person to person.  If people become infected with Legionella, they may get flu-like symptoms that can range from mild to severe.  It can, however, be life-threatening to people who have health factors that increase their susceptibility. Those most at risk include smokers, the elderly and those with existing respiratory illnesses and weakened immune systems.” said Dr John Liddle, Chief Executive, Nursery and Garden Industry New Zealand.

Soil is rich with living organisms beneficial to plants which generally cause no harm to animals or people.  It does, however, also contain some organisms that are not beneficial.   A type of Legionella bacteria, which is commonly found in the environment, is one of these. It has been shown to cause Legionnaire’s disease in a few people and on rare occasions it can be inhaled in water vapour and in the dust associated with soil and potting mix.

“NGINZ endorses the Ministry of Health safe gardening guidelines provided to help reduce the risks when gardening,” said Dr Liddle.

The guidelines advise gardeners to:

  • Minimise the amount of dust when working in the garden.
  • Water gardens and indoor plants using a gentle spray.
  • Read the warning label on bagged composts or potting mix.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Wear a dust mask so that any dust is filtered out before you can breathe it in.
  • Dampen potting mixes before use.
  • Open bags of soil products slowly, away from the face.
  • Make sure the working area (glasshouse, potting shed) is well ventilated.
  • See a doctor if you develop a flu-like illness which is worsening.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after gardening or handling soil products.

These are simple and easy steps all gardeners can take to reduce risk while continuing to enjoy their garden.


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