Children are being educated on staying safe while in the garden.
During November, staff from Regional Public Health visited Cannons Creek School and Titahi Bay Intermediate in Porirua to raise awareness of Legionnaires’ disease and educate staff and students on how to protect themselves while in the garden.
Health Protection Officers spoke to children and staff about the health risks while handling and using store bought potting mix and compost.
Legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease) is caused by the Legionella bacteria, which lives in moist conditions in the environment and is often found in compost, potting mix, mulch and soils. Infection occurs when dust or fine water vapour are inhaled.
Symptoms, which are flu-like, usually develop 2-10 days after being infected and often include: fever/chills, muscle aches, headache, dry cough, and exhaustion. Although the illness is rare, it can cause severe pneumonia and even death.
While gardening, you can reduce your risk by:
- Wearing gloves and a disposable face-mask (the double-strap type with nose clip for secure fit);
- Avoiding putting your hands near your face;
- Washing your hands thoroughly after touching soil, potting mix or compost;
- Opening potting mix or compost bags carefully with scissors rather than ripping the bag open;
- Minimising dust by gently wetting the potting mix or compost before use; and
- Ensuring the area where you are using the potting mix or compost, is well ventilated (if using it inside a glasshouse/potting shed).
If you or someone in your family becomes unwell after being in the garden or using potting mix or compost, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.Photo: Titahi Bay Intermediate School students illustrate how to protect yourself while gardening.