Public Hot Tub Operators

Considerations for Legionella Control

Key points

  • Regular hot tub maintenance is key to preventing the spread of bacteria that can cause recreational water illnesses.
  • CDC resources provide guidance on safe operation of hot tubs.
  • CDC guidance includes disinfection if maintenance lapses occur.
  • CDC also offers guidance on testing and disinfection if illness occurs.
A woman relaxing in an outdoor hot tub

The problem

Low water volumes combined with high temperatures and heavy bather loads make public hot tub operation challenging.

Low disinfectant levels can result, which allow the growth and spread of a variety of germs (e.g., Pseudomonas, Legionella). These germs can cause skin and respiratory recreational water illnesses (RWIs). Legionella is the cause of Legionnaires' disease.

Operators that focus on hot tub maintenance and operation are the first line of defense in preventing the spread of RWIs.

Guidance available to keep water safe

The Model Aquatic Health Code is a voluntary guidance document based on science and best practices. Its purpose is to make swimming and other water activities safer.

It can be used by

  • Staff in the aquatics sector
  • State, territorial, and local authorities

Legionella control recommendations

The Legionella Control Toolkit includes guidance on hot tubs. Design, operation, maintenance, and contol recommendations are provided for Legionella control.

Training recommendation

Anyone involved in hot tub maintenance should obtain state or local authority-recommended operator and chemical handling training. See resources below.

Additional guidance

Anyone involved in hot tub maintenance should also read and adhere to guidance on operating and managing public hot tubs.

According to industry standards, hot tubs should have a water management program to reduce Legionella growth and spread. CDC has a toolkit with practical guidance on how to implement an effective water management program.

Guidance on disinfection after illness

Public health staff taking water samples.
Taking the proper samples is important if illnesses are suspected.

If Legionnaires' disease cases are linked to a hot tub, it's important to

  1. Turn the hot tub off immediately to prevent more cases
  2. Take samples for laboratory testing
  3. Disinfect the hot tub

Detailed instructions for disinfecting hot tubs are available: Controlling Legionella in hot tubs.

Uncertain how to collect samples?‎

CDC has a video that walks through the process of collecting water samples from hot tubs for environmental testing.