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The Dangers of Legionella: Legionnaires’ Disease and Pontiac Fever

 

Legionella bacteria, when it contaminates industrial water systems like cooling towers, has the potential to reach a substantial population of people. This poses significant public health risks due to the illnesses (broadly known as legionellosis) that the bacteria can cause. The two main conditions caused by the bacteria are known as Pontiac fever and Legionnaires’ disease.

Although medical science has proven effective in treating these illnesses – mainly through antibiotics – they can still prove serious or even fatal. The best way to prevent them is through good maintenance of water systems and the services of a legionella compliance company. Read on to learn more about the risk factors, symptoms, and treatments of the two main illnesses caused by legionella bacteria.

Pontiac Fever

Pontiac fever is so named because the first case arose in Pontiac, Michigan in 1968. A group of employees that worked at the county’s department of health developed symptoms akin to a fever and mild flu. Notably, they did not contract pneumonia, as well.

Although Pontiac fever does not include pneumonia, it still causes an upper respiratory infection akin to acute influenza. The illness is mainly spread through aerosolized water or potting soil (the latter of which notably occured in New Zealand in 2007). Thankfully, the illness has caused no fatalities and frequently abates without treatment over a short period of time.

Legionnaires’ Disease

On the other hand, Legionnaires’ disease presents a much more serious threat. This disease represents a form of atypical pneumonia that can entail high fevers, muscle pains, sharp headaches, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The disease may affect anywhere from 8,000 to 18,000 Americans a year, frequently requiring hospitalization.

The disease received its name from the first known outbreak when over 182 attendees of an American Legion convention held in Philadelphia in 1976 contracted the disease. This led to the discovery of the bacteria – additional testing of blood samples from the Pontiac fever outbreak in 1968 determined that the same bacterium was to blame.

The disease is not to be taken lightly – 10% of cases prove to be fatal. Adults aged 50 and over, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised individuals should be especially cautious when exhibiting symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease or any other kind of pneumonia.

 

If you suspect that you may be exhibiting symptoms of a legionella-related condition, contact a doctor right away. Are you a professional or building owner concerned about the risks of legionella contamination in your water system? Get a legionella inspection or learn more about the other legionella compliance services we provide by calling us at (212) 804-8552 or contacting us online!