You may not be familiar with legionnaires disease, but you need to be. Over the last few years, the spread of legionnaires has increased and become an emerging disease that has led to record numbers of sickness and susceptibility. On estimate, close to 18,000 people are currently infected by Legionella pneumophila each year, and it is not uncommon for these patients to wind up in the intensive care unit.
What is Legionnaires Disease?
Legionnaires is a type of bacterium found in freshwater environments like showers, lakes, streams, hot tubs, hot water tanks, and other plumbing systems. It is typically found in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, public pools, hot tubs, and even air conditioning units. Legionnaires causes a severe and often life-threatening type of pneumonia. Click To Tweet
Causes of Legionnaires Disease
As mentioned, legionnaires lurk in freshwater environments and thrive during the warmer months. The bacteria naturally grows in the environment. The legionella bacteria grows and multiplies in contaminated water systems and is spread when people breathe in the bacteria from water droplets.
Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease
While legionnaires typically affect the lungs, it has been known to cause infections in other parts of the body, like the heart, too. Legionnaires usually develops within two to ten days after exposure and has the following signs and symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- High fever
- Mucus-filled coughing
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Confusion and mental changes
Complications of Legionnaires Disease
Legionnaires must be treated to help kill the dangerous bacteria in the body. Without prompt and proper treatment, there can be complications from contracting legionnaires disease, like lung failure, heart failure, kidney failure, or even death.
Is Legionnaires Disease Contagious?
Legionnaires is a lung infection and is not contagious from human contact. Because it is contracted by contaminated airborne bacteria, it must be inhaled rather than consumed or through human contact. Some people may come into contact with legionnaires and have no issues, but others have a higher risk for legionnaires. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at greater risk are:
- People over 50
- Current and former smokers
- People with chronic lung disease
- People with lower immune function
- People with cancer
- People with underlying illness, such as diabetes, kidney or liver failure
The good news is, outbreaks from legionnaires is preventable. Avoid smoking, and make sure that the water in your house, pool, and hot tub are all at the proper water temperature and pH levels to kill germs. The best defense to legionella bacteria is to have your water tested through legionella pneumophila testing. With this testing, you can ensure outbreaks won’t happen.
Legionnaires Disease: Reducing Risk
Legionnaires were first discovered in 1976, but Legionella infections have increased four-fold since the year 2000. By learning about this bacteria and how to prevent it will help you stop the spread of legionnaire infections and risk factors, keeping you healthy and free from this serious disease.
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