Legionnaires disease

Legionnaires' disease is a serious lung disease which is caused by breathing in aerosols infected with the bacteria Legionella Pneumophila. Of those who are infected up to 30% will die.

The bacteria got its name in 1976, when 4.000 US. Legionnaires went to the 58. American Legion Convention in Philadelphia. At the conference 221 legionnaires were infected with the bacteria whereof 34 died. This was the first diagnosed outbreak of legionnaires disease.

Legionnaires' disease has the same symptoms like other forms of pneumonia, which makes it hard to diagnose. Symptoms are high fever, chills, coughs, muscle aches and headaches. Chest x-rays are needed to find the pneumonia caused by the bacteria, as well as blood or urine to find evidence of the bacteria in the body.

To catch the disease the bacteria must be inhaled. Infection occurs after inhaling a fine aerosol of bacteria contaminated water droplets. The infection rate is typically 5%. The fatality rate is up to 30% of those who are infected.  Typical sources of infection are showers, cooling towers, spas, whirlpools, swimming pools and water fountains. The bacteria do not spread from one person to another.

Legionnaires' disease is a serious disease. However, most cases are treated successfully with antibiotics, and healthy people usually recover from infection. The symptoms usually begin 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the bacteria.

A milder infection caused by the same type of Legionella bacteria is called Pontiac Fever. The symptoms of Pontiac Fever usually last for 2 to 5 days and may also include fever, headaches, and muscle aches. However Pontiac fever is not lethal.