Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says that gardeners need to take care when handling potting mix or compost.
A Coroner’s report finding potting mix was the likely cause of death of a Canterbury woman is a timely reminder of the importance of taking care when using potting mix and compost.
Coroner, Richard McElrea, found a Christchurch woman in her early 60s died of Legionnaires’ disease after contracting pneumonia caused by Legionella longbeachae – a bacteria, which is found in potting mix.
“Labour Weekend is a popular time to get back in the garden and plant vegetables for summer. Enjoy your gardening by all means but please make sure you avoid inhaling the dust from potting mix or compost as this can be dangerous,” 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:
“Anyone can catch Legionnaires’ but certain people are more vulnerable including people over 50 years of age, those with a long-term illness, particularly lung disease, people with low immunity and smokers.”
Symptoms of the disease may include dry coughing, high fever, chills, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Anyone who gets these symptoms should see their general practice immediately, and let them know they have been handling potting mix or compost recently.