Ford Motor Company found a “low concentration” of Legionella bacteria, which is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, after testing a cooling tower at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, MO, officials announced Dec. 8, according to KCTV5.

“We take the safety of our workforce very seriously,” a statement read. “When routine testing detected a low concentration of Legionella bacteria in an outside cooling tower, we quickly disinfected that location and notified our workforce. The level of Legionella detected in our recent sampling is very low and does not represent a health risk to our workers. Legionella is common and naturally occurs in water systems like rivers, streams and lakes. The vast majority of those exposed to the bacterium do not become ill.”

The disclosure comes after Legionnaires’ disease was confirmed in a Ford employee who subsequently underwent surgery Nov. 28 at Liberty Hospital. Family members said they believe she was sickened while working at the assembly plant.

Officials at the Clay County Public Health Center (CCPHC) said in November that the disease didn’t necessarily originate at Ford, and that they were not doing any testing at the facility. The CCPHC has yet to identify a specific source for the illness.

Ford’s original statement when news of the employee’s illness was announced read: “We regularly test for Legionella out of an abundance of caution for our employees. All test results have been negative throughout the entire year.”

What is Legionnaires’ disease? 

Legionnaires’ disease – also called Legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms. Ten percent of those infected die.

How is Legionnaires’ contracted? 

Individuals are infected by Legionella bacteria by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:

  • cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • water systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • decorative fountains
  • mist machines
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • hot water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • equipment used in physical therapy.

Who is at risk of infection?

Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • organ-transplant recipients (kidney, heart, etc.)
  • individuals following certain drug protocols (for instance, corticosteroids).

A woman from the United Kingdom filed a lawsuit after contracting Legionnaires’ disease while staying at The Guest House at Graceland in Memphis, TN, according to news reports.

Jennifer Walker of West Yorkshire, England, is one of nine hotel guests who contracted the deadly respiratory illness after lodging at The Guest House over the summer. Walker stayed at the facility June 12-13 and spent much of her visit around the hotel and pool area. She began experiencing symptoms June 19 after returning home, and she required a neighbor to call an ambulance June 25 after becoming delirious. She was hospitalized for a week and a half, during which time she was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

The pool area was temporarily closed in late June by the Shelby County Health Department after testing indicated elevated levels of Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease.

Walker’s lawsuit, filed in October, listed Guest House at Graceland LLC, Pyramid Hotel Group LLC, Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc., Pyramid Tennessee Management LLC, and Memphis Pool as defendants. Walker is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal costs, but no specific dollar amount was listed.

The lawsuit alleges there was a failure to properly maintain the hotel water systems, pool, hot tub, and sprinkler system, as well as a failure to properly train and supervise employees responsible for those areas.

Third lawsuit to be filed

Two additional lawsuits were filed earlier this year:

  • A Kentucky family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in September after one of four family members infected with Legionnaires’ disease died. Linda (Gail) Godsey, 62, of Breathitt County, KY, died from the effects of Legionnaires’ on June 21, the same day she was hospitalized. The other family members – Godsey’s sister, niece, and daughter – were sickened with related symptoms but recovered after staying at the hotel between June 10 and 13.
  • Kenneth Dawson, Jr., and his wife, Linda Dawson, residents of Shelby County, TN, who stayed at the hotel June 11-13, filed a separate suit in August against the hotel after Mr. Dawson was hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease from June 18 to July 15. While hospitalized, he was intubated and on machine ventilation for several weeks in intensive care.

Legionnaires’ illnesses increasing

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. It is “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States continues to increase,” said Laura Cooley, MD, MPH from the Respiratory Diseases Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cooley said she believes the increase is due to a rise in the susceptibility of the population, with more and more people on immunosuppressive medications. In addition, there could be more Legionella in the environment, with warmer temperatures creating the right conditions for bacterial growth.

CDC: About 25,000 cases annually

The CDC estimates that 25,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease occur in the U.S. yearly. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of the disease’s non-specific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as cooling towers and air-conditioning systems, to name just a couple.

A 50-year-old California man filed the first lawsuit against Ceasars Entertainment Corp. in connection with a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in June at the Rio Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, according to news reports.

Christopher Moncado of Long Beach filed suit Tuesday in Nevada’s Clark County District Court. Moncado has been on disability since contracting the disease while a guest at the hotel. He has suffered from shortness of breath, weakness, reduced energy, disturbed sleep, and depression. Moncado sent his medical records and bills to Caesars, but they have neither offered a settlement nor responded, according to his attorney.

The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) tested the Rio’s water supply and confirmed Legionella bacteria – which is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease – existed in the system. The SNHD also confirmed that the June outbreak was linked to Moncado’s case.

The outbreak has had seven confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, 30 suspected cases of Legionnaires’, and 60 suspected cases of Pontiac fever, which is a flu-like illness caused by Legionella, according to the SNHD. The investigation remains open.

What is Legionnaires’ disease? 

Legionnaires’ disease – also called Legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to the Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms, and 10 percent of those will die from the infection.

How do you catch Legionnaires’ disease? 

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:

  • water systems, such as those used in hotels, hospitals, and nursing homes
  • cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • decorative fountains
  • mist machines
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • hot water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • equipment used in physical therapy

What are complications of Legionnaires’ disease?

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases of Legionnaires’ disease, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.

Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • people with weakened immune systems (those suffering from diseases such as diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, or infected with HIV)
  • organ-transplant recipients (kidney, heart, etc.)
  • individuals following certain drug protocols (for instance, corticosteroids)

Even relatively healthy individuals have been known to contract the disease.

Another resident has taken ill with Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy (IVHQ), a month after two residents were sickened with the disease, according to a Nov. 28 news release from the Illinois Department of Health.

The illnesses come two years after a 2015 outbreak at the IVHQ in which 12 people died and 53 others were sickened.

The resident was diagnosed while being treated at a local hospital over the weekend and has since been released. One of the two individuals sickened last month died.

The IVHQ undertook a nearly $5 million, state-of-the-art rehabilitation of its water-treatment plant in summer 2016. There were four cases of Legionnaires’ disease at the facility in 2016, including three after the rehabbed plant was made operational.

Dave MacDonna, an Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs spokesperson, believes the spike in Legionnaires’ diagnoses could be due, in part, to the increase in testing for the pneumonia-like disease. Illinois experiences about 300 cases each year.

McDonna said the home was in a state of “high alert,” and any resident displaying symptoms is tested regularly and hospitalized if symptoms persist.

Legionnaires’ disease symptoms 

Legionnaires’ disease looks like other forms of pneumonia or even flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include:

  • chills
  • fever, which can be 104 degrees or higher
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing, called pleuritic chest pain (due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

The incubation period – the amount of time between contracting the bacteria and developing symptoms – is usually 2 to 10 days. However, it can be as much as 16 days.

Who is at risk? 

Anyone can get the disease, but those at higher risk of infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • current or former smokers
  • heavy drinkers of alcohol
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with suppressed immune systems
  • organ-transplant recipients
  • people who are following specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, for example).

(Photo credit: Michael Kipley / Quincy Herald-Whig via The Associated Press)

While the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at Disneyland has dominated the news cycle, other Legionnaires’ disease cases have popped up across the country:

  • In northern California: A Sonoma County woman died recently from Legionnaires’ disease, the Sonoma County Public Health department announced Nov. 27. The case – the fourth in the county this year – is the first reported death due to Legionnaires’ disease in 2017. None of this year’s four cases involved a common source. The county usually documents fewer than 10 cases a year; in 2016, eight cases were reported.
  • In the Midwest: A case of Legionnaires’ disease was confirmed in the Kansas City metro area, according to KCTV5. A woman sickened with Legionnaires’ disease has been in a medically induced coma for two weeks. She underwent surgery today at Liberty (MO) Hospital, according to family members. Those family members said she may have contracted the disease while working at the Ford Plant in Claycomo, but no confirmed source has been identified by local health officials.
  • In the East: A resident of Beechtree Commons, a senior housing community in Penn Hills, PA, was confirmed with Legionnaires’ disease on Nov. 2, according to the Allegheny County Health Department. Tests conducted on the water system were negative for Legionella at the two-building complex, which houses about 100. It is unknown where the resident became infected.

Case count increases across U.S.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. It is “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States continues to increase,” said Laura Cooley, MD, MPH from the Respiratory Diseases Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cooley said she believes the increase is due to a rise in the susceptibility of the population, with more and more people on immunosuppressive medications. In addition, there could be more Legionella in the environment, with warmer temperatures creating the right conditions for bacterial growth.

About 25,000 cases annually

The CDC estimates that 25,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease occur in the U.S. yearly. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of the disease’s non-specific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as cooling towers and air-conditioning systems, to name just a couple.

Cases are more commonly reported during the summer and early fall but can happen any time of the year, as illustrated by these recent reports.

The Southern Nevada Health District announced that the number of confirmed Legionnaires’ disease cases has risen to seven – with 29 more cases suspected – five months after an outbreak was originally reported at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

In addition, there were 56 suspected cases of Pontiac fever, which is a flu-like illness caused by Legionella bacteria. Unlike Legionnaires’ disease, Pontiac fever does not cause pneumonia (see below). Those 56 cases bring the total count to 92 confirmed or suspected cases related to the outbreak.

In June, two visitors contracted Legionnaires’ disease after staying at the hotel separately in March and April. Testing of the hotel’s hot-water system in May confirmed the presence of Legionella, which is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaires' disease
Legionnaires’ disease basics

“The health district continued to receive notifications of the illnesses from hotel guests who left Las Vegas and were diagnosed in their hometowns,” according to Kimberly Hertin, the SNHD surveillance supervisor.

Cleaning and monitoring the hotel’s water system is ongoing to ensure the eradication of Legionella. All recent tests of the hotel’s water systems showed low levels or no presence of Legionella. A third disinfection took place Nov. 3 as a precaution.

“Guests are not currently at risk for infection,” according to Robert Cole, the SNHD senior environmental health specialist.

“The entire Rio property is open and we have remediated all water sources,” the Rio released in a statement Wednesday. “We continue to work with the Southern Nevada Health Department and have taken the additional step of voluntarily installing a new filtration system to help prevent a reoccurrence.”

Legionnaires’ or Pontiac fever?

Legionnaires’ disease – also called Legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to the Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s non-specific signs and symptoms. In addition, 10 percent of those cases will end in death.

Pontiac fever, on the other hand, can produce symptoms including a fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches. Pontiac fever, however, doesn’t infect the lungs.

Legionella in the air 

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, generally in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.

Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:

  • water systems, such as those used in hotels
  • cooling towers in air-conditioning systems
  • decorative fountains
  • mist machines
  • hot tubs/whirlpools
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • large plumbing systems
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools.

Another person is dead, and three additional cases been linked to the Anaheim Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, it was announced Wednesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA).

Two of the three new cases involved individuals who visited Disneyland. Of the 15 cases, 11 involved people who visited Disneyland in September, including one who worked there.

Thirteen of the 15 patients were hospitalized and the two who died both had underlying health problems that made them more susceptible to complications, Neither individual who died visited Disneyland.

No additional information was made available on the two individuals who passed away.

Cooling towers at Disneyland were shut down after Dr. Eric Handler, the county’s Health Officer, issued an order Nov. 8 requiring Disney to take the towers out of service until the park can ensure they are free of contamination. Elevated levels of Legionella bacteria, which is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, were found in them after testing in October.

Recent water samples collected Nov. 2 and Nov. 6 were negative for the bacteria, according to Disneyland officials. The water in the towers was sanitized Nov. 4.

“Negative results mean that the towers do not pose a current ongoing risk for transmission of Legionella,” HCA spokesperson Jessica Good said, adding that the agency is working with Disney on procedures to bring the towers back into operation.

Those procedures include making sure cleaning and sanitation are done according to guidelines set forth by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the Cooling Technology Institute. Disney must also provide a plan to clean, maintain and monitor all of its cooling towers for bacteria.

The cooling towers will reopen after all the criteria have been satisfied.

Good said the majority of patients having visited Disneyland “indicates a pattern but does not identify that specific location as the common source of infection for all cases.”

Health officials continue to search for the source, according to Good. They’re visiting hotels, motels, and businesses that aren’t associated with the Disneyland Resort along the Harbor Boulevard corridor to see if they can find any connection to the illnesses.

The 15 cases were reported to the HCA between Sept. 27 and Nov. 15 and involved individuals whose ages ranged from 52 to 94 years old. All were infected before the cooling towers were shut down.

Cooling towers hot spots for Legionella

The Legionella bacteria is endemic in cooling towers throughout the United States, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC tested water from 196 cooling towers in eight of nine continental U.S. climate regions, and 84 percent returned positive results for Legionella DNA, meaning the bacteria were either present or had been present at some point. Overall, investigators found live Legionella bacteria in 79 cooling towers – half of which had more than one type of Legionella – in most regions of the country.

The CDC study is the first to illustrate how prevalent Legionella may be in cooling towers, which are known to be a prime culprit in Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks. In two recent and well-publicized outbreaks:

  • Between August and September in 2016, one person died and 23 people were sickened in a Hopkins, MN, outbreak. Officials identified a Citrus Systems, Inc., cooling tower as the source.
  • In 2015, contaminated cooling towers were responsible for the deaths of 12 and more than 120 others becoming infected with Legionnaires’ disease in the South Bronx, NY.

The CDC had previously announced a 286 percent increase in the number of reported Legionnaires’ cases in the U.S. between 2000 and 2014.

The J.M. Tull Gwinnett Family YMCA in Lawrenceville, GA, temporarily closed its pool, hot tubs, sauna, steam room and shower areas last week because of the potential for Legionella bacteria infection, according to multiple news outlets. All other areas of the suburban Atlanta facility remained open to the public.

Legionella is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease or Legionellosis, a respiratory illness that can result in death.

The Gwinnett County Health Department alerted the YMCA about multiple cases of Legionella involving people who had used the facilities, which prompted the closures. It’s unknown how many visitors reported health issues.

“Based on information provided by the health department, we immediately closed the potential areas of concern,” the YMCA wrote in a letter to members. “Although there are currently no environmental samples showing this bacteria is present in our facility, we are taking every precaution and have hired an outside company who specializes in remediation for public facilities.”

Remediation is performed to reverse or stop environmental damage. Remediation consists of cleaning, heat treating, and hyper-chlorinating the water tanks and water systems, and can include the addition of filters to showers, faucets, and hoses.

Members, recent visitors or employees of the club who may be exhibiting symptoms of Legionellosis should immediately contact their physicians for care. They should also call the Gwinnett County Health Department at 770-339-4260 and report their symptoms to the epidemiologist.

Legionnaires' disease bacteria
Legionella bacteria

What are the symptoms? 

Legionnaires’ disease looks like other forms of pneumonia or even the flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include the following:

  • chills
  • fever (can be 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing, called pleuritic chest pain (due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

The incubation period – the amount of time between contracting the bacteria and developing symptoms – is usually 2 to 10 days and can be as much as 16 days.

Are you at risk of contracting Legionnaires’? 

Anyone can get the disease, but those at higher risk of infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • organ-transplant recipients
  • individuals following specific drug protocols (for example, corticosteroids).

The Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) is investigating 12 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Anaheim area, including the death of one person, according to news reports. Nine of those sickened had visited Disneyland in September, before developing the serious respiratory illness, including one Disneyland employee.

The three individuals who took ill who had not visited the park were Orange County residents who lived or traveled in the Anaheim area. Ten of the 12 needed to be hospitalized; their ages ranged from 52 to 94 years old.

The individual who died had not visited Disneyland but had additional health problems that made them more susceptible to complications, officials said.

A common source for the illnesses have yet to be identified, but the resort voluntarily shut down two cooling towers in the theme park after elevated levels of Legionella bacteria were found in them after testing in October.

“We conducted a review and learned that two cooling towers had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria,” said Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in a statement. “These towers were treated with chemicals that destroy the bacteria and are currently shut down.”

New Orleans Square Train Station at Disneyland

The towers are in a backstage area near the New Orleans Square Train Station, about 100 feet from areas accessible to guests.

The HCA informed Disney of the Legionnaires’ cases on Oct. 27. Hymel added that “there is no longer any known risk associated with our facilities.”

A disease on the rise in U.S.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection and is “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States continues to increase,” according to Laura Cooley, MD, MPH from the Respiratory Diseases Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cooley said she believes the increase is due to an increase in the susceptibility of the population, with more and more people on immunosuppressive medications. In addition, there could be more Legionella in the environment, with warmer temperatures creating the right conditions for bacterial growth.

How do you catch Legionnaires’? 

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:

  • cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • decorative fountains
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • hot water tanks and heaters
  • large plumbing systems
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to other forms of pneumonia or even flu, which is why so many cases go unreported. Early symptoms can include:

  • chills
  • fever, potentially 104 degrees or higher
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

The incubation period – the amount of time between breathing in the bacteria and developing symptoms – is usually 2 to 10 days after exposure and can be as much as 16 days.

Who should be most concerned?

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.

Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers, current or former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems.

Five people have contracted Legionnaires’ disease at an elderly care facility in the Bronx, NY, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has confirmed.

The five, all residents of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, were diagnosed with pneumonia last month and subsequently tested positive for Legionella bacteria, which is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.

The individuals infected in this outbreak are recovering after being treated with antibiotics, according to a Hebrew Home representative.

Facility opened 100 years ago 

The healthy-aging facility was founded a century ago in 1917 as The Hebrew Home for the Aged by a small synagogue in Harlem and moved to its current location at 5901 Palisade Avenue in Riverdale, NY, in 1951. The 32-acre RiverSpring Health campus along the Hudson River is home to more than 12,000 residents, patients, and members.

What is Legionnaires’ disease? 

Legionnaires’ disease – which is also known as Legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia (lung infection). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to the Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

The CDC estimates 1 in 10 people will die from complications of the infection. The odds are even worse for individuals who take ill at health care facilities – 1 in 4 will succumb to the disease.

How do you catch Legionnaires’ disease? 

The Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:

  • cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • decorative fountains
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • hot water tanks and heaters
  • large plumbing systems
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • water systems like those used in hospitals, and nursing homes.

People can also catch Legionnaires’ disease by the aspiration of contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. It’s also possible to contract Legionnaires’ disease from home plumbing systems, although the great majority of outbreaks have occurred in large buildings because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily.