RV Water Tanks May Cause Avoidable Legionella Infections


A study done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on RVs showed that Legionella pneumophila was cultured from 24% (4 of 17) of RV faucets, 9% (1 of 11) of RV water tanks, and 20% (4 of 20) of RVs from three different campsites. While these study sized don’t seem significant, consider the dire seriousness of contracting a Legionella pneumonia. This is a summary of that study. Below is a link to the entire article.

RV travel has become more popular over the last 25 years. Consequently, Legionella has increased its potential to become a serious health problem. But, it’s one that is easily avoided. Simply disinfect your potable holding tanks (cold and hot) with chlorine. These are recommended maintenance guidelines that are found in owner’s manuals. So, this isn’t something mysterious or difficult to do.


Hot water tanks and warm weather with direct sunlight on the RVs are most likely environments for growing Legionella. Winter snowbirds travel south for warmer weather in the winter. Summer RVers will find heat everywhere.

Of the 60% who cleaned the water tank in the year prior to the study, only one flushed with chlorine. The rest reported flushing and/or draining as their cleaning procedure.

Our case of fulminant Legionella pneumonia acquired from an RV water tank and demonstration of Legionella in RV water tanks is unprecedented (see full article.) The factors that lead to legionellosis from water sources are not always completely understood, but in this case we can postulate that an improperly sanitized RV water tank and warm weather conditions could allow for the multiplication of the Legionellae. The subsequent aerosolization of the bacteria during showers and bathing could be a risk factor for transmission of the pathogen.


Legionellosis is considered a preventable illness because controlling the growth of the Legionella in water tanks will prevent cases of the disease. Therefore, effective control and decontamination programs for the prevention of Legionella colonization should be instituted for portable water supplies, such as RV water tanks. In surveying the RV users on their cleaning and maintenance of the water tanks, it was noted that chlorine disinfection was rarely performed. To safeguard the quality of tank water and prevent the possibility of Legionella infections, RV owners should implement regular chlorine disinfection of their water tanks and follow the recommended maintenance guidelines according to their owner’s manuals. This simple, inexpensive maintenance could prevent contracting disease.

For more details of this study visit, including details of a patient who contracted pneumonia, read the full article at  Case Report: Recreational Vehicle Water Tanks as a Possible Source for Legionella Infections

Christine M. Litwin(1), Bankole Asebiomo(2), Katherine Wilson(2), Michael Hafez(2), Valerie Stevens(3), Carl B., Fliermans(4), Barry S. Fields(3), and John F. Fisher(2)

  1. Department of Pathology, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Regents University, 1120 15th Street, Augusta, GA 30912, USA
  2. Department of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Regents University, 1120 15th Street, Augusta, GA 30912, USA
  3. Respiratory Diseases Branch, Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Service, United States Department of Health and Human Services, 1600 Cli?on Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
  4. Savannah River Site, Aiken, SC 29802, USA

Received 11 July 2013; Accepted 9 August 2013

Academic Editors: K. B. Bamford, L. M. Bush, and S. Talhari

Copyright © 2013 Christine M. Litwin et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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Michele Boyer
Fulltimers in spirit since 1999. We've worked from home since 1977 and have plenty to share about that. As a full timer, the ability to work from wherever we take our RV is a survival tactic. Our travels our funded through writings, Udemy.com courses, Shoestring Startup™ business books, teaching courses in working from home or RV, courses in genealogy, and our affiliate sales of similar materials. Our resource pages are accessible through http://www.adhocgroup.net. Everyone can do something, and we'll help you live healthier by making a living from whatever it is you do, naturally. Full timing was the best decision we ever made. We enjoy a healthier lifestyle and time to give and take according to the opportunities life presents us.