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Health Department advises caution when using potting mix

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Health Department advises caution when using potting mix

October 2006

With the spring gardening season approaching the South Australian Department of Health is reminding people to be cautious when using bagged or loose trailer loads of gardening soils, due to the risk of contracting Legionella.

Environmental Health Director Jim Dodds said Legionella longbeachae was a type of bacteria that could be inhaled into the body when handling potting mix, mulches, peat, garden soils or composts.

“Legionella longbeachae can potentially cause lung infections or pneumonia,” he said.

“The elderly, smokers and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of becoming ill.”

Gardeners are reminded to follow some simple precautions to avoid contracting the potentially dangerous infection:

  • Always wear gloves when working with gardening soils
  • Wear a face mask to avoid inhaling particles that may include bacteria
  • Carefully keep the soil damp when in use
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after working in the garden.

Mr Dodds said the number of cases reported in Western Australia usually increased during Autumn and Spring in response to better weather conditions for gardening.

“Legionella infections usually develop two to 10 days after exposure and symptoms include fever, chills, aching muscles, stomach pain, diarrhoea, headache and tiredness,” he said.

“Anyone suffering from these symptoms after working in their garden should see their doctor.”

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