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CDC to Address COVID-19 Impact on Legionnaires’ Disease, Present New Prevention Tools at Legionella Conference

NSF Health Sciences and the National Environmental Health Association to co-host virtual special session March 9-10.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Two speakers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will headline a virtual special session of the annual Legionella Conference on March 9-10. “Prevention of Disease and Injury From Waterborne Pathogens During an Emergent Health Crisis” will feature CDC Commander Jasen Kunz, a senior environmental health officer, and epidemiologist Elizabeth Hannapel, who will discuss the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Legionnaires’ disease risks and new CDC Legionella control tools. The conference will also cover how COVID-19 has impacted Legionnaires’ disease incidence, testing and reporting.

“Low building occupancy and closures brought on by the pandemic have changed water use patterns, creating conditions favorable for Legionella growth. If inhaled, Legionella bacteria can lead to the potentially deadly Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia,” said Dave Purkiss, Vice President of NSF’s Global Water Division. “The new tools developed by the CDC, which will be launched just prior to our conference, provide building owners and managers information and methods to reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease being contracted by tenants and visitors.”

The two-day special session, hosted by NSF Health Sciences, LLC, an NSF company, and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), will also address how industries such as health care, water utilities, manufacturing and hospitality, as well as health departments and regulators, can better respond to water-related challenges during a major health crisis.

“Americans on average spend more than 90% of their time indoors: inside their homes, schools, day care facilities and office buildings,” said Dr. David Dyjack, Chief Executive Officer of the National Environmental Health Association. “Ensuring building occupants breathe air that is free from harmful, potentially lethal organisms is the central theme of this conference, and of central importance to the environmental health profession.”

Elizabeth Hannapel, MPH
Elizabeth Hannapel, MPH

The Legionella Conference is an annual national event that brings together hundreds of water experts from around the globe to discuss issues and challenges related to building water systems. For more information visit the conference site.

The CDC keynote speakers provide technical assistance for legionellosis surveillance, prevention and outbreak response through epidemiology, environmental health and laboratory services.

Commander Jasen Kunz, MPH, REHS
Commander Jasen Kunz, MPH, REHS

“Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease continue to pose a serious threat to public health,” said Commander Kunz. “However, CDC investigations show almost all Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks were caused by problems preventable with more effective water management. The implementation and refinement of water management programs is critical to addressing pandemic-related impacts on building water systems and devices.”

Kunz, an environmental health officer in CDC’s Water, Food, and Environmental Health Services Branch, leads the agency’s environmental health component of preventing and responding to Legionnaires’ disease. Hannapel is an epidemiologist with the Legionella team in the Respiratory Diseases Branch in the Division of Bacterial Diseases within CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

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