Truckers At Risk for Legionnaires' Disease

Recently published studies in England, Turkey, and the Netherlands confirm a surprising risk factor for commercial drivers, particularly truckers who drive extensively through industrial areas: They are at higher risk of acquiring Legionnaires' Disease through exposure to Legionella bacteria, apparently by having their windows down as they pass cooling towers and industrial equipment where the bacteria are present and also from windshield washer fluid sprayed on their windshield and entering the cab via the air conditioning system.

The Turkish study was published in a microbiology journal in April 2007. The British study, "Windscreen wiper fluid without added screenwash in motor vehicles: a newly identified risk factor for Legionnaires' disease," was performed by Anders Wallensten and colleagues from the Health Protection Agency and Bristol University and published online this summer.

Their study followed an unusually high number of cases of Legionnaires' in England and Wales during the summer of 2006 and the attempt to identify high-risk groups. They report 145 cases were identified among 851,000 professional drivers (including heavy trucks, vans, buses, and taxis), while 782 cases were reported among 27,061,000 persons with other occupations, suggesting the professional drivers were at higher risk for the disease.

Legionella bacteria are transmitted through contaminated water sources.

They cite a Japanese study that showed a disproportionately high number of cases among transportation industry workers and found Legionella bacteria in air-conditioning evaporators of discarded cars. The study utilized a questionnaire asking about exposures related to driving or being a passenger in a car or other vehicle, distance and time traveled in a vehicle, time driven with windows open, and time driven in various areas. Data were collected on vehicle type, make, age, service history, contents of the washer fluid reservoir, whether driving was work or socially related or both, and about known risk factors for Legionella infections such as smoking, underlying illness, and the use of showers.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Sep 16, 2010