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Safe Handling of Compost and Soils

It is important to stay safe when gardening - please be aware of the risks of Legionnaire's disease and take the time to protect yourself.
Legionellosis (Legionnaire’s disease) is a form of pneumonia, and is caused by a bacteria called Legionella found in moist conditions in the environment. You can catch the disease by inhaling airborne droplets or particles that contain the bacteria. The illness can present itself in mild or severe cases, and can sometimes be fatal.
More Information from Work Safe of safe handling. 
Dr Humphrey says there are five simple actions gardeners should do to avoid getting legionnaires':
  1. Wear a well-fitting disposable face mask and gloves.
  2. Reduce dust by dampening down potting mix or compost with a sprinkle of water.
  3. Open potting mix or compost carefully – use scissors instead of ripping the bag.
  4. Work with potting mix or compost in a well-ventilated outdoor area.
  5. Thoroughly wash your hands after handling potting mix or compost.
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Symptoms of Legionnaires' Disease

Legionnaires’ disease usually develops two to ten days after exposure to Legionella bacteria.

  • The usual initial symptoms are headache, muscle  aches, malaise (feeling generally unwell), and fever.

  • By the second or third day, other symptoms develop, including cough (sometimes with blood-streaked phlegm), shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, and confusion.

Anyone who develops a high fever, breathlessness and/or a cough after handling garden soil, compost, mulch, or potting mix should visit a doctor as soon as possible.

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