The Legionella bacteria is commonly found in nature. It mainly lives in bodies of water e.g. ponds and lakes, and is usually harmless.
Outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease originate in manmade water systems where temperatures are suitable to encourage growth of the bacteria (i.e. between 20°C and 50°C), e.g. in evaporative condensers, cooling towers, spa pools/hot tubs and from water used for domestic purposes in buildings such as offices, hospitals, hotels.
Most UK outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease have been traced to air-conditioning or water cooling systems which can spread infected droplets of water over a large area.