Could you be at risk for Legionnaires?

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You’ve probably heard of pneumonia before, and there’s a good chance that you may have even suffered from it at one point in your life. But have you heard of it’s bigger, badder relative?

While Legionnaires’ disease may sound foreign or unfamiliar, it is a culprit that is not easily contracted and or detected. Unlike other diseases, as will be discussed in this article, Legionnaires’ is a unique ailment that can have destructive consequences.

What is Legionnaires’?

The disease originates from the Legionella family of bacteria found naturally in ponds, lakes, rivers and even potting soil. It can also be found in man-made locations (which are usually the source of certain outbreaks), such as hot tubs, pools, fountains, air conditioning, water towers, and water heaters. The disease itself is an amplified version of pneumonia, and can be deadly if left untreated. Even after receiving medical care, some people experience lingering symptoms for months afterwards. Antibiotics have been known to dispose of the disease when caught early, though this discovery would require hospitalization, which is the result of most cases anyways.

What are the symptoms of Legionnairs?

So how can you recognize such a disease, especially if it is commonly mistaken for other illnesses? The symptoms may be generic, but it is still important to be educated on what they are when judging whether you need medical attention or not. Common symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Muscle Aches
  • High Fever (103-107 degree fahrenheit)

And as the disease progresses, other symptoms may arises, such as:

  • Gastrointestinal Problems (Diarrhea, vomiting)
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Fatigue

No one knows what your body can and cannot handle more than you. If you show any of these symptoms and believe it to be more than the common cold, please seek medical attention immediately.

How is Legionnaires it spread?

Unlike most diseases, Legionnaires’ is not spread through contact with another contaminated person, but by inhaling infected micro droplets of water. Legionella, like most bacteria, thrive in warm, moist environments making the lungs a perfect battlefront for infection. This also means that Legionella could potentially be in any water source, including improperly cleaned bathtubs, hot tubs, fountains, as well as water towers and water heaters. However, most outbreaks occur in public environments. Office buildings, recreation centers, and hotels are the prime location for Legionnaires’ to be found. A recent outbreak proved this point when some 54 people contracted the disease at a Veterans Home in Quincy, Illinois. Twelve had died as of September 14, 2015, but the flare-up was quickly contained when shower heads were replaced, water heaters were sanitized and ice machines were cleaned. Despite its relatively tame origins, Legionnaires’ should be treated with caution and the utmost care.

Who is affected by Legionnaires?

While all can be affected, those most at risk include elderly people, those with underlying chronic lung diseases, smokers and those with additional illnesses (or in other words, a weakened immune system.) You may also be susceptible if you recently had an organ transplant, particularly if it was a lung transplant. If you fall into any of these categories, extra precaution should be taken if and when you come down with something. If your illness mirrors the symptoms listed above, you may consider going to a local emergency room. It is better to be over-cautious when it comes to this particular lung infection rather than tough it out.

Shortly after incubation, Legionnaires’ can easily be mistaken for a bad case of pneumonia. Nevertheless, it is in your best interests and the best interests of those you share a building with to exercise care and vigilance. The best thing that can be done for the prevention of Legionnaires’ is maintaining/sterilizing any water sources that may exist in your home or building. If you believe that you have already caught Legionnaires’, seek medical attention immediately.

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Source: Neighborhood Link - Sabrina Robinson
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