Compost warning given to gardeners
Gardeners have been warned to be careful when using potting mix after three Counties Manukau people contracted suspected legionnaire’s disease last month.
Twenty cases of legionellosis, also known as legionnaire’s disease, were notified in November, compared to seven last November, the Health Ministry says. The disease often causes pneumonia.
Five cases had been confirmed last week, five are classified as probable and the remaining 10 cases are still being investigated.
Seven people were admitted to hospital as a result.
Of the November cases where the bacteria strain has been identifi the most common is legionella longbeachae, the type associated with potting mix or compost.
Public health director Mark Jacobs is urging all gardeners, amateur or professional, to heed the warnings on bags of potting mix and when working around commercial compost stockpiles in order to minimise the risk.
The same care should be taken when handling home made compost because legionella can thrive in compost bins, he says.
Legionella longbeachae bacteria can be inhaled into the body when potting mix or other compost product is used.
“The disease caused by the legionella bacteria is usually pneumonia but there may be complications, particularly for those with existing respiratory illnesses, people with weakened immune systems, smokers, drinkers and the elderly,” Dr Jacobs says.
“Of the 20 notifications in November, 12 cases were people over 60. Three people were 30 to 39 and five were 39 to 59.”
Symptoms of legionnaire’s disease include: • Sudden high temperature • Dry cough • Loss of appetite • Shortness of breath • Chills, muscle aches and headaches • Sometimes stomach pain and diarrhoea.
Anyone with those symptoms should see their doctor.
People using potting mix should: • Always wear gloves and a mask • Take care when opening bags of potting mix and avoid inhaling dust • Moisten potting mix before use • Wash hands thoroughly after use.
Leaflets on gardening safety are available from the ministry website www.healthed. govt.nz.