People are more inclined to head outside and get stuck into their gardens now that Spring is here with longer and warmer days.
If you are gardening and working with compost or potting mix, it’s important you know how to protect yourself from Legionella which is a bacteria found in potting mix or compost that can cause pneumonia, which can be serious and life-threatening.
“Legionella bacteria lives in moist organic material. People can catch the disease by inhaling droplets or particles in the air containing the bacteria. Gardeners are at higher risk of catching Legionnaires’ disease as the bacteria thrives in bags of potting mix and compost,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr Rachel Eyre.
“While New Zealand typically sees a spike in cases around early November, cases in Hawke’s Bay start earlier from September onwards, attributed to increased gardening activity.”
5 simple steps to avoid Legionnaire’s disease from potting mix or compost
- 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.
Common symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease to look out for include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fever (feeling hot or cold)
- Muscle aches
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
Anyone who has been handling potting mix or compost recently and is experiencing symptoms, as described above, should see their doctor immediately.