Legionnaire's Disease is a life-threatening form of pneumonia. It is caused by a bacterium called Legionella pneumophila that is commonly found in natural water sources -- rivers, lakes, etc. -- and may be found in cooling towers, condensers and whirlpool spas. In optimum conditions, the bacteria will multiply.
Legionnaires Disease received it's name when in 1976, many attendees of a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia became sick with the same disease. Doctors now automatically screen for it whenever a patient presents with pneumonia systems.
Legionnaire's Disease is the most serious illness caused by this bacteria. Pontiac fever is a milder form and doesn't affect the lungs.
According to the CDC, Legionnaire's Disease hospitalizes between 8,000 and 18,000 people per year in the United States. It is expected, however, that the number of diagnoses is actually higher than this as many cases continue to undiagnosed or unreported. Five to fifteen percent of known cases have been fatal. Of those patients who contract the disease while in hospital, 50% die from it.
The Symptoms of Legionnaire's Disease
Because the symptoms of Legionnaire's Disease are so similar to pneumonia it is difficult to diagnose at first. Below is a list of symptoms that may not all occur at once and may not be experienced by all patients:
• High fever (104-105F);
• Dry cough (which may or may not include coughing up blood);
• Muscle aches;
• General feeling of unwellness;
• Chest pain;
• Difficulty breathing;
• Hallucinations; and
• Loss of memory.
Symptoms tend to worsen during the first week or so, then improve after another week.
Scientists and doctors have been able to determine that people can develop Legionnaire's Disease when they inhale small droplets of water that contain the Legionella bacteria. Since the vapor is inhaled, it goes into the lungs where the bacteria festers and infects.