Understanding Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is considered a rare communicable illness because it affects a relatively small percentage of the American population every year. However, there are certain insidious aspects about the disease, and those who contract it can face serious and even lethal consequences.

The disease acquired its name after an outbreak at a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia nearly four decades ago. Legionnaires’ disease is essentially a type of pneumonia that results from a bacterial infection. The specific bacterium that spawns the disorder is known as legionella. Rather than being spread by interpersonal contact, Legionnaires disease is contracted through the inhalation of the bacteria that is borne by other means.

The disease will usually develop within two weeks of exposure to the bacteria, and at that point the symptoms will often consist of a headache and aching muscles. Within a few days, the person infected will begin to cough, which may produce mucus or even blood, and will experience fatigue and chest pain and have difficulty breathing. Other symptoms can include gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhoea and vomiting, and the sufferer may also develop a high fever.

Those who experience the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, especially those who are more susceptible to the condition, should seek medical attention as soon as possible in order to reduce the chance of serious complications. The disease can be diagnosed with blood and urine tests, a chest X-ray or a CT scan, and can be treated with antibiotics. Untreated, Legionnaires’ disease can result in such life-threatening complications as kidney failure, breakdown of the respiratory system or heart trouble.

Susceptibility to the disease is more pronounced among certain individuals, including those who are 65 years of age or older. Those who have such chronic lung disorders as emphysema or have weakened immune systems are also at greater risk of contracting the disease, as are smokers, who often have damaged lungs as a result of their habit. The avoidance of Legionnaires’ disease is another good reason for either quitting or not taking up the use of tobacco products.

The Legionella bacterium usually does not cause infections in an outside environment, but indoors it can multiply through contact with different forms of moisture, including hot tubs, mist sprayers and air conditioning systems. The avoidance of large buildings and public areas should be considered by anyone trying to avoid Legionnaires’ disease.

For more information on Legionella the bacterium or about the diseases including risk advice and training then visit legionellacontrol.com

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