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What is Legionellosis?

Steve R.
Steve R.

Legionellosis is a respiratory infection that, if left untreated, could potentially result in death. The mild form of the condition, Pontiac disease, is an ailment that is similar to influenza. The more severe form, Legionnaires' disease, may result in pneumonia. The bacteria responsible for legionellosis originates in water and thrives in warm, still water. While each year thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds may develop the condition, middle aged individuals and people with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to the illness. Legionellosis is characterized by fever, headache, and depression, and may be treated with antibiotics.

Typically, the bacteria that cause this condition may be found in hot tubs, plumbing systems, and parts of an air conditioning system in temperatures of 68 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 50 degrees Celsius). A person may contract legionellosis when he inhales tiny drops of water in the atmosphere that have been tainted with the bacteria. While the condition is not contagious, an outbreak may occur when a large group of people are exposed to the bacteria simultaneously.

Legionellosis is characterized by high fever.
Legionellosis is characterized by high fever.

A person who contracts Pontiac Disease may develop symptoms within hours of being exposed to the bacteria. An individual may develop a fever, headaches, and aching muscles. Typically, within a week, the symptoms subside on their own without any complications.

If a person catches Legionnaires' disease, however, she will develop more serious symptoms, likely within two to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria. In addition to fever and headaches, the patient may also experience chills, coughing, and a high fever, as well as loss of appetite and diarrhea. If the person does not seek treatment, she runs the risk of developing severe pneumonia. Complications from pneumonia may include heart failure, shock, and organ failure, which may cause death. A person with Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics, and recovery time may take weeks or even months.

While anyone may come down with legionellosis, some people are more prone to developing the disease. Men over the age of 50, smokers, and people with chronic lung diseases may be at risk for the disease. Also, individuals with a weakened immune system because of diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, or cancer are more susceptible to the condition.

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    • Legionellosis is characterized by high fever.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      Legionellosis is characterized by high fever.