LEGIONELLA bacteria has been found in the water system of a Bradford sheltered housing complex - but what is it?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Legionella bacteria can cause the serious Legionnaires' disease, as well as the similar but less severe conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever.

The HSE says: "Legionnaires' disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection.

"The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk including: people over 45 years of age; smokers and heavy drinkers; people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, diabetes, lung and heart disease; anyone with an impaired immune system.

"The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers.

"They may also be found in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools.

If conditions are favourable, the bacteria may grow increasing the risks of Legionnaires' disease and it is therefore important to control the risks by introducing appropriate measures."

People contract Legionnaires' disease by inhaling small droplets of water, suspended in the air, containing the bacteria.