Traces of potentially dangerous bacteria have been found in the main headquarters of Derry City and Strabane District Council.

However, the council has stressed that the level of the Legionella bacteria found at its Strand Road base was ‘very low’.

The bacteria were found during a recent routine check in the building and the council said the matter was dealt with ‘immediately’.

Legionella is a common bacterium which survives and multiplies in water.

Sometimes the bacteria cause a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) called Legionnaires' disease.

The bacteria can also cause a less serious infection called Pontiac fever that has symptoms similar to a mild case of the flu.

Most healthy people do not get sick after being exposed to Legionella.

People at increased risk of getting sick include people aged over 50, current or former smokers and people with a chronic lung disease or a weak immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure.

About 1 out of every 10 people who get sick with Legionnaires' disease will die due to complications from their illness.

During the recent inspections carried out by the local council, traces of Legionella were also found at Riversdale Leisure Centre in Strabane.

A spokesperson for the council said that all council facilities, including leisure centres and pavilions are routinely sampled as part of council’s bacterial control programme.

“This regime is in compliance with Council’s risk prevention policy,” the spokesperson said.

“Legionella is a common bacterium which survives and multiplies in water.

“It is widespread in natural fresh water including rivers, lakes, streams and ponds and may also be found in wet soil.

“There is a strong likelihood of very low concentrations of the bacteria existing in most water systems, including those of building services.

“Whilst under normal operating conditions there is little risk to health, the risk of infection increases considerably if the bacteria are allowed to multiply.

“Riversdale Leisure Centre and Derry City and Strabane District Council Offices on Strand Road confirmed a very low positive reading which was picked up as part of the monitoring controls which are in place and was dealt with immediately.”

The council spokesperson said that the organisation’s Environmental Health Department was responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation at premises where legionnaire’s disease may present a risk, including residential care homes and commercial spa pools.

“Owners of such premises or anyone suspecting cases of legionella can obtain further advice by contacting the Environmental Health Department or visiting Council’s website at www.derrystrabane.com.”

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