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Health warning to gardeners using potting mix

Health Advisory Alert

Status: Active

Date issued: 11 October 2021

Issued by: Professor Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer, Victoria

Issued to: Victorian consumers and health professionals

Key messages

  • There were 34 cases of Legionella longbeachae infection notified in Victoria since January 2021.
  • Legionella longbeachae, a bacteria commonly found in potting mix, can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia.
  • This disease is often caused by inhaling or by spreading the bacteria from hand to mouth after handling potting mix, soil or compost.
  • Early symptoms resemble the flu and begin to appear two to ten days after exposure.
  • Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal in a small number of people.
  • The risk of disease is increased with age, smoking, and in people with weakened immune systems.
  • The ingredients and dampness in potting mix makes it an ideal breeding ground for the bacteria.
  • To minimise the risk of exposure, gardeners should always follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions, wear a mask and gloves when handling soil, compost or potting mix, and wash hands with soap and water after handling soil and before eating, drinking, smoking or placing hands near the face or mouth.

Read the full advisory: Health warning to gardeners using potting mix

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