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Legionella contamination found in more heated birthing pools

PHE reinforces advice not to use heated birthing pools for home births after more pools test positive for Legionella.

Latest evidence from Public Health England (PHE) about the risks from Legionella associated with heated birthing pools used at home was published on 24 July 2014 in the European scientific journal Eurosurveillance.

In the article PHE reinforces its advice not to use heated birthing pools, filled in advance of labour, for home births after 4 pools tested positive for ‘Legionella’, the bug which can cause Legionnaires’ disease.

A total of 10 heated birthing pools, sourced from several suppliers, were tested after they had been returned following the recommended recall in June 2014.

Test results are currently available for 6 of them. Of these 6, 4 tested positive for Legionella, and 3 of these also tested positive for other potentially harmful organisms, including ‘Pseudomonas aeruginosa’.

In addition to publishing the article in Eurosurveillance, PHE has also written to all known suppliers of heated birthing pools, sharing the latest test results and reinforcing the advice that they are not to be used for home births.

Professor Nick Phin, PHE’s head of Legionnaires’ disease said: “These latest results have strengthened already serious concerns about the safety of heated birthing pools in the home setting and the potential for contamination from a number of organisms which are recognised causes of infection, and pose particular risks to new born babies.

“Consequently, the PHE recommendation remains that heated birthing pools (incorporating both a re-circulation pump and heater), filled in advance of labour, should not be used for labour or birth at home.

“PHE will review this recommendation if evidence is provided of a safe system for use in the home. However at this point in time, it appears unlikely that hired-out, re-used, heated pools can be made safe to use for labour or birth in the home setting.

“We do not have concerns about purchased or hired pools that are filled from domestic hot water supplies at the onset of labour, provided that any pumps are used solely for pool emptying.”

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Women planning birth at home using a traditional pool that is filled when the woman is in labour or using a fixed pool in an NHS unit are not affected by this alert and should not be concerned.

“Birthing pools in hospitals are subject to stringent infection control procedures and monitoring. Home birthing pools filled during labour come with disposable liners and are only in place for a relatively short time period, reducing opportunity for bacterial growth.

“Any women with concerns about using home birthing pools should contact their midwife or local maternity unit.”

The 11th Annual Combatting Legionella & Water Treatment conference, will be taking place on 24-25 September at Holte Suite, Aston Villa Park, Birmingham.

The conference is a comprehensive and cutting-edge event that will ensure engineering and facilities management teams are able to prevent legionella bacteria and comply with water safety regulation.

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