Well, Legionnaires disease is not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. And this latest report is certainly a bit disturbing: Hospitals water wall source of Legionnaires Disease – Health – CBC News.
But to me, the reaction to this is a bit much. According to the news story there are now two – count ’em – two – reports of Legionnaire’s disease coming from water features at hospitals. Sure – that is a bad thing. But counting is not a measure of risk. How many hospitals have such features? And how many cases of Legionnaire’s show up when one does not have a water feature? And do water feature’s help in some way (emotionally, or from a microbial diversity point of view, or something). I am not saying water features are a good thing – but it drives me absolutely crazy when we attempt to sterilize our lives – literally and figuratively – all in the name of killing bad germs.
Fortunately the story does at least hint at some complexity here – and ends with a quote that seems more reasonable:
“There are, I think, good reasons why people like water features,” she says. “But there are also good reasons why we don’t have them in hospitals.”
I am reserving judgement on this. Yes I think hospitals should be safe places. But I want to treat a hospital as a complete system – an ecosystem of sorts. And I just do not think one vector – the presence of breeding grounds for Legionella bacteria – should have too much weight.