Com­post warn­ing given to gardeners

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

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.

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