Gardeners still at risk of legionnaires disease

Gardeners can still be at risk of catching legionnaires’ disease, despite it being rare to catch it from gardening, according to Dr Luisa Dillner. Dr Dillner, who writes for The Guardian, has told gardeners to take certain precautions when handling compost to reduce the risk of catching the disease.

It was recently reported that there have been six cases of legionella longbeachae in Scotland. Legionella longbeachae is produced when compost decomposes. One man in Scotland has already died from the disease after handling compost. The disease has also been linked to cases in Australia, Switzerland, Japan, The United States and The Netherlands.

Symptoms include a high fever, headache, dry cough and diarrhoea. More severe symptoms include pneumonia, which is more likely to develop in those that smoke.

Advising gardeners on what precautions to take, Dr Diller said: “When gardening try to avoid opening the compost bag in close proximity to your head, so you don’t inhale any bacteria.

“Damping down the compost before potting reduces the dust. You should keep compost outside of greenhouses, as heat makes compost decompose and release bacteria more readily.”

She also advised gardeners to wash their hands before eating, drinking or smoking after using compost and to use gloves when gardening.