What is legionellosis?
Legionellosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila. The disease has two distinct forms — Legionnaire’s Disease, the more severe form of the infection causing pneumonia, and Pontiac Fever, a milder form of illness.
Legionella can cause a very mild respiratory illness or can cause severe pneumonia, which can be fatal. Legionnaire’s Disease was named in 1976 from an outbreak of pneumonia among people attending a convention of the American Legion members.
What are the symptoms of legionnellosis?
Symptoms may include muscle aches, headache, fatigue, fever of chills and dry cough.
The time between exposure and onset of illness is 2 to 10 days.
How is legionnellosis spread?
In certain conditions, Legionella bacteria can be spread by breathing in small drops of water dispersed in the air from air conditioning cooling towers, showers, misters, humidifiers, whirlpool spas, etc.
It is not spread from person to person. It is also not spread from car or household air conditioning units.
Legionella is widely distributed in our environment. It has also been found in ponds and creeks. Legionella reproduce to high numbers in warm, standing water.
The disease is more serious in middle-aged or older men, particularly those who smoke or have chronic lung disease, diabetes, mellitus and kidney failure. People whose immune systems are suppressed are also at risk.
How is legionnellosis treated?
Antibiotics are effective in treating the disease.
How do you prevent legionellosis?
- Legionella is susceptible to heat. Water temperature in hot water holding tanks should be raised to 60°C or tanks be drained and cleaned to remove sediment and scale.
- Cooling towers, humidifiers, air handling units, floor drains and other stagnant water sources should be drained, cleaned and disinfected.
- Develop a schedule for removing, cleaning, and disinfecting shower heads and all equipment that generates water droplets.
- Install high efficiency filters on ventilation intakes.
For more information:
If you have questions or concerns related to Legionellosis and would like to speak to a public health inspector, please contact Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 or toll-free at 1.866.522.9200.