Cantabrians are being reminded of the dangers of potting mix and compost when gardening this Easter weekend.
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says Easter is a popular time to get the last of that Autumn planting and weeding done before winter sets in.
However, it can increase people's chances of being exposed to harmful bacteria legionella longbeachae, which can lead to Legionnaires' disease.
Dr Pink says it's important to remember prevention is always better than a cure and is easily done.
"Easter is often a time when the number of Legionnaires' cases can peak and this is usually associated with increased gardening activity and lower immunity levels with the change in season," Dr Pink says.
"It's important to follow the five simple steps when handing potting mix or compost to help reduce the risk of developing Legionnaires' disease."
The five simple steps are:
1.Open potting mix bags carefully using scissors, rather than ripping them.
2. Wear a disposable face mask and gloves and open the bag away from your face.
3. Do your potting in a well ventilated area outside.
4. Dampen down the potting mix or compost with a sprinkle of water to stop the bacteria from becoming airborne.
5. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling potting mix and doing any gardening.
Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease may include dry coughing, high fever, chills, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Anyone with these symptoms, who has been handling potting mix or compost recently, should seek prompt advice from their General Practice Team or medical centre.
Extra facts about Legionnaires' disease:
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