Health Effects of legionellosis

Who is at Risk?

Healthy people are at low risk for Legionnaires’ disease. The likelihood of infection increases in the elderly, particularly for men.An infection is also more likely in someone with other factors including:

  • People over 50 years of age
  • Smokers and heavy drinkers
  • People suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, diabetes, lung and heart disease, renal or hepatic failure
  • Systemic malignancy
  • Immune system disorders
  • Anyone with an weak immune system

For more information about Legionnaires’ disease or the ecology of the Legionella bacteria, check out the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/legionella

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How do you get Legionnaires’ disease?

A person can get Legionnaires’ disease from inhaling small droplets of water suspended in the air (aerosols) that contain the bacteria,  Legionella. Less commonly, people can get Legionnaires’ disease while drinking, if it “goes down the wrong pipe”, into the trachea (windpipe). Certain conditions in your plumbing system can increase the potential for Legionella to grow, such as:

  • The water temperature in your hot water heater is too low
  • Fine mists of water are created, such as in a shower, spa, fountain or pool
  • The water in the pipes or plumbing has been still, meaning it hasn’t circulated or moved, for so long that any disinfectant that might have been present when the water first entered your building is now gone, or not enough is present to kill the bacteria.
  • Rust, sludge, scale or slimy films are present, which provide a food source for bacteria, enabling it to grow.
For more information about Legionnaires’ disease or the Legionella bacteria, check out the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/legionella


What are the Symptoms of Legionnaires’ and how is it treated?
 The symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Muscle pains
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Signs of mental confusion
      

Legionnaires’ disease is not typically spread from person to person. If you develop symptoms, you should contact your health care provider. The illness can be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor can order tests to determine whether an illness is Legionnaires' disease. When doctors are aware that the illness is present in the local community, they have a much better chance of diagnosing it earlier. 

For more information about Legionnaires’ disease or the Legionella bacteria, check out the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/legionella