UK dental rules control ‘risks from legionella’

Thorough guidance on decontamination in primary dental care should control any risks from legionella.

That’s according to the Department of Health today in light of a case of an elderly woman who died from Legionnaire’s disease after she contracted the infection from a dental practice in Italy.

The DH issued a statement today after the case was reported in The Lancet.

A government spokesperson said that it ‘required practices in England to comply with best practice guidance on controlling the risks from legionella and to carry out a risk assessment’.

Doctors in Italy confirmed that the 83-year-old woman who died from Legionnaire’s disease contracted the infection from a dental practice.

The patient had only left home twice within the incubation period of between 2 and 10 days and both trips were to the dentist.

Samples of water were taken from the waterline, the tube that supplies water to dental instruments and analysed.

All three samples of the water tested positive for the Legionella pneumophila bacteria and the sample from the water pump was particularly convincing.

This is the first case of disease stemming from a dental waterline, despite the fact that it is known that the germ can affect waterlines.

The Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘There have never been any cases of Legionnaire’s disease traced to contaminated dental surgery equipment in the UK, but we will continue to keep all evidence under review.

‘The Department of Health has thorough guidance on decontamination in primary dental care, requiring practices in England to comply with best practice guidance on controlling the risks from legionella and to carry out a risk assessment.

‘The guidance is used by the CQC in their inspection programme for primary dental care premises.’

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