Assessing maintenance of evaporative cooling systems in Legionellosis outbreaks

Kelly M Rangel, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Evaporative cooling systems continue to be associated with outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease despite widely available maintenance guidelines intended to reduce these outbreaks. Yet, the guidelines vary widely regarding the recommendations that are made to maintain evaporative cooling systems and it is unclear whether guidelines were in place or, if they were, whether they were being followed when the outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease occurred. Thus, this study was designed to conduct two systematic reviews of (1) evaporative cooling system maintenance guidelines; and (2) published Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks. For each maintenance guideline identified in the systematic review, recommended maintenance practices were abstracted and similarities and/or differences in the reported recommendations were assessed. Following the systematic review of outbreak investigations that meet the inclusion criteria established for the study, information about the state of the evaporative cooling system during the outbreak investigation was abstracted to summarize, when reported, which maintenance practices were implemented. As expected, the recommended maintenance procedures varied greatly across the guidelines and were not always specific. Overall, the outbreak investigations tended to report similar maintenance issues that were unclear in the maintenance guidelines. Generally, these maintenance issues were biocide use, microbiological testing, frequency of general inspections, and protocols and frequency of total system cleanings. The role in which non-standardized and generalized maintenance guidelines plays in the continued association between Legionnaires’ disease and evaporative cooling systems is still not fully understood. However, this study suggests that more specific and standardized maintenance guidelines, that have been scientifically established to be effective in controlling Legionella bacteria, are needed and then these guidelines must be properly implemented in order to help reduce further Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks associated with evaporative cooling systems.

Subject Area

Environmental Health

Recommended Citation

Rangel, Kelly M, "Assessing maintenance of evaporative cooling systems in Legionellosis outbreaks" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1470370.