Legionnaires disease is an acute form of pulmonary infection. Extreme lung inflammation is often observed with this condition. In simple words, it is severe pneumonia. Legionnaires disease is caused due to the attack of legionella bacterium.
Legionnaires disease is not an epidemic disease that spreads rapidly from person to person or due to normal person-to-person contact but it mostly occurs due to inhaling bacteria.
Causes Of Legionnaires Disease
There is a type of bacterium called legionella, that’s usually found in freshwater environments like lakes and streams. It can cause health issues when it gets carried and spreads into human-made water systems like:
- Water tubes where hot water remains stagnant over a period of time.
- Heaters and hot tubs where there are optimal conditions for the growth of this bacterium.
- Uncleaned and uncared for decorative fountains.
- Large plumbing systems.
- Large cooling towers or centralized air conditioning units.
How It Spreads
Legionella bacteria needs moisture and optimal temperature to multiply. And so, they choose huge water building systems to reproduce. They then spread by contaminating the water droplets present in the air or in other words, they enter into a person’s body through the moisturized air or mist that they breathe in.
It’s extremely rare that this bacterium spreads because of the water a person drinks unless the water he intakes accidently goes down the windpipe or trachea, instead of the digestive tract.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptoms of legionnaires disease could be:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle ache
Sometimes these symptoms are also accompanied by diarrhea and nausea. These are mainly observed in the victim between 2-10 days after being subjected to the bacterium. In some cases, it can take longer too depending on the resistance one’s body can show.
Pontiac fever is a milder infection than legionnaires disease. One can observe the symptoms within hours to 3 days and they usually last less than a week. It is safe to say that pneumonia and Pontiac fever are not associated.
Pneumonia is usually confirmed with the help of a chest x-ray but, to find out whether this pneumonia is caused by legionella or not, one must go through:
- Urine test and
- A lab test, that requires a sample of sputum (phlegm).
The doctors generally prescribe antibiotics as a form of treatment.
The only possible complications of legionnaires disease would be lung failure and death but, it’s very rare. 1 out of 10 people dies due to the complications of this disease.
A simple blood or urine test can diagnose Pontiac fever. This may result in a negative result. However, many times, the doctors prescribes further tests to make certain of the result. It is common for more practiced doctors to help clinics in such situations.
Pontiac fever doesn’t need any specific treatment.
There are no vaccines that could help prevent the attack of legionnaires disease but one can take precautions like maintaining the water bodies in a safe environment to prevent the growth of bacteria. This bacterium usually requires warm temperatures and moisture to multiply. Therefore, adding proper disinfectants to the water bodies, cleaning them frequently and not allowing the water to stand still for a long time helps in preventing the growth of this bacterium.
Smoking increases the risk of developing this disease when exposed to bacteria. I strongly suggest that you give up smoking for various other reasons besides Legionnaires Disease.