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What Are the Symptoms of Legionnaires' Disease?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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The symptoms of Legionnaires' disease, also known as Legion fever, can be difficult to determine, as they are similar to those of pneumonia. It is also possible for pneumonia to develop from the disease. After exposure to the legionella bacteria that causes the condition, many patients in the early stages of the disease will have chills, aches, a cough, and high fever. These symptoms can show up anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks after infection.

After one to two days, the symptoms of Legionnaires' disease can become much more serious. A patient may experience shortness of breath or a more intense cough that can produce mucus or blood. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. Some patients may also feel uncharacteristic fatigue, loss of coordination, and confusion.

When the symptoms of Legionnaires' disease are suspected, many doctors will work quickly to begin treatment before the patient’s condition becomes more serious. Macrolide and quinoline drugs are the most common medications used. Antibiotics are another common method of fighting the disease.

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If an individual appears to have the symptoms of Legionnaires' disease, a diagnosis can be confirmed in several ways. The bacteria which cause the infection may be discovered via tests of urine, blood, and phlegm. These tests are also usually the best way to rule out pneumonia. Doctors may also examine a patient’s liver, kidney function, and electrolytes. A chest X-ray can be used to find visible evidence of the condition.

Legionella bacteria can also cause Pontiac fever, a less serious condition that is more similar to influenza. It usually also presents itself with aches, chills, and fever. This condition usually goes away within a few days. While it is important to treat symptoms of Legionnaires' disease as quickly as possible, Pontiac fever generally does not require treatment.

The most common way to become infected with Legionnaires’ disease is via the inhalation of droplets of water that carry the legionella bacteria. It can be found in several different kinds of water sources. Many infections come from swimming pools, hot tubs, and fountains. Public places such as hospitals and hotels may carry the bacteria in their water supply. It can also be found in the spray nozzles used to mist produce in grocery stores or the cooling towers of air-conditioning systems.

While the disease existed many years previously, Legionnaires’ got its name in 1976 when several members of an American Legion convention were infected. Over one hundred people fell ill and dozens died as a result of the condition. The publicity behind the event led to the new name.

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