A Melbourne grandfather has recently passed away after being exposed to deadly chemicals in a potting mix his wife had asked him to open.
Giuseppe ‘Beppi’ Trentin, 79, died in hospital last Wednesday – a month shy of his 80th birthday – after he was exposed to legionella bacteria at the couple’s Preston home.
“Mum did all the potting, dad didn’t touch the soil or anything,” his son stated.
A few days later, Beppi woke with a fever and was admitted to hospital a week later when his condition deteriorated rapidly.
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia — lung inflammation usually caused by infection. It’s caused by a bacterium known as legionella.
Most people catch Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling the bacteria from water or soil. Older adults, smokers and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease.
The legionella bacterium also causes Pontiac fever, a milder illness resembling the flu. Pontiac fever usually clears on its own, but untreated Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal. Although prompt treatment with antibiotics usually cures Legionnaires’ disease, some people continue to have problems after treatment.
The bacteria can be found in tiny quantities in the general environment and do not pose a health hazard, however, the ingredients and dampness of potting mix make it the ideal breeding ground.
Early symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, shortness of breath or muscle aches begin to appear six days after exposure.
Gardeners are advised to wear a mask and gloves when handling soil, compost or potting mix and wash their hands to minimise the risk of exposure.
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