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Legionnaires’ disease is the illness caused by breathing in aerosolized water containing Legionella bacteria. These tiny water droplets can hold the microscopic bacteria, allowing it to enter the lungs when breathed in.
It is a type of bacterial pneumonia that is often confused with other types of pneumonia, as symptoms are quite similar.
Legionnaires’ disease is not communicable, and cannot be spread from person to person, except in very rare in specific circumstances. Nor is it spread by drinking contaminated water. This illness is caused by inhaling bacteria from a contaminated water source.
So, what are some of the typical sources?
Legionella bacteria is naturally found in freshwater environments. Places like lakes and streams. It doesn’t become a problem until it finds its way into human-made water systems, particularly inside buildings.
Common sources of Legionella infection include:
Generally speaking, home and car air-conditioning units are not at risk for spreading Legionella bacteria. These smaller systems do not use water to cool the air, so they are not a breeding ground for these harmful bacteria. The only vehicle related risk is in the windshield wiper fluid tank, though this is only the case when this tank is filled with water instead of genuine windshield cleaner fluid.
Legionnaires’ disease is the illness associated with exposure to the Legionella bacteria. Exposure to Legionella bacteria does not always result in illness. In fact, most healthy individuals who are exposed will not become sick at all.
Certain groups of people are at higher risk of becoming infected and symptomatic.
Age can be a risk factor. People who are 50 years or older are at higher risk of falling ill of Legionnaires’ disease.
Smoking status can also be a risk factor. Both current and former smokers are at increased risk of falling ill of Legionnaires’ disease.
Those with an existing lung issue such as chronic lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema are at higher risk of becoming ill with Legionnaires’ disease.
People with weakened immune systems are also at increased risk of infection and serious illness. Certain pre-existing conditions or medications can contribute to the weakened immune system.
Those with cancer are also of elevated risk.
Other underlying illnesses, such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure can also increase risk.
Legionnaires’ disease is often confused with other types of pnuemonial illnesses, leading to under or misdiagnosis. With appropriate antibiotic treatment, there is a higher probability of recovery.
Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious illness. In fact, 1 in 10 illnesses result in death. This statistic rises to 1 in 4 when the infection is acquired in a healthcare setting.
Symptoms often begin somewhere between 2 and 14 day after exposure, but can take longer in some cases.
Primary symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Other symptoms may include diarrhea, nausea, and confusion.
If you develop pneumonia symptoms, seek medical attention right away! Be sure to mention if you may have potential exposure to Legionella bacteria, have spent any nights away from home, used a hot tub, or stayed in a hospital in the last two weeks.
Pontiac fever (different from Legionnaires’ disease) is a milder infection associated with the Legionella bacteria. These symptoms generally include fever and muscle aches. Symptom onset happens sooner – anywhere from a few hours to a few days and resolves in less than a week. The key distinction is the lack of pneumonia.
Your most important task is to get well or help a family member to get well. Consultation with a Legionnaires’ Disease Law Firm can help answer questions you may have and help you navigate this process. The Lange Law Firm, PLLC has a proven record of helping victims of preventable Legionnaires’ disease exposure. Reach out for a free consultation in this Richman Plaza Bronx Legionnaires’ Outbreak by calling (833) 330-3663 or click here to email.