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Legionnaires' Disease: The Rare Form of Pneumonia

 Posted on April 06, 2023 in Foodborne illness

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First identified in 1977, Legionnaires' disease was a result of the pneumonia outbreak in a US convention center in 1976. Caused by bacteria called Legionella, Legionellosis is a severe form of pneumonia. Most patients of Legionnaires' disease become sick by inhaling the bacteria from soil or water bodies like showers, swimming pools, and hot tubs. Legionella bacteria can also cause Pontiac fever which has flu-like symptoms and can be easily treated. However, if left untreated, Legionnaires' disease can be life-threatening, especially for people with a weak immune system. According to studies, one in ten people with Legionellosis is expected to die.

In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment for Legionnaires' disease. Keep reading to protect yourself and your loved ones from the rarest form of pneumonia.

What Is Legionnaires' Disease?

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 8000 to 18000 cases of Legionnaires' disease are recorded every year in the United States, usually between the months of June and October.

Pronounced LEE-juh-nares, Legionnaires' disease is a severe lung infection with symptoms similar to that of pneumonia. It is spread by a waterborne bacteria known as Legionella. Legionellosis can affect your brain, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. People who are at a higher risk of getting Legionellosis include:

● Older than the age of 50.

● Smokers.

● Have long-term respiratory illness like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

● Have a weak immune system or suffer from medical conditions like liver or kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, or HIV.

● Have recently had surgery that required anesthesia.

● Organ transplant patients.

● Have stayed in a long-term care facility or hospital.

The Complications of Legionellosis

Legionnaires' disease can affect your muscles and organs adversely. Listed below are the life-threatening complications of Legionellosis:

1. Inflammation of the Heart: Legionella has attacked your heart, causing inflammation. Medications can treat the medical condition.

2. Acute Kidney Injury: The bacteria spreads to your kidneys, making it difficult for them to function properly. Medication and dialysis are required to filter waste from the blood streams.  

3. Respiratory Failure: Makes it difficult for your lungs to breathe. You might need a mechanical ventilation machine to ensure optimum oxygen supply.

4. Encephalopathy: Can cause neurological symptoms like balance issues, confusion, and speaking problems.

5. Rhabdomyolysis: Causes muscle breakdown and is treated by flushing the toxins out of the body.

6. Empyema: Creates pus pockets around your lungs. A chest tube is required to treat empyema.  

Despite the complications, Legionnaires' disease is treatable, and most patients survive. However, if left untreated, Legionellosis is fatal 80% to 30% of the time. On the other hand, if treated, the fatality rate is between 5% and 10%.

Causes of Legionnaires' Disease

Even though there are 60 Legionella species, Legionnaires' disease is often caused by Legionella Pneumophila. The bacteria aren't only found in clean water bodies like soil, streams, and lakes but even in air systems and dirty water. According to healthcare providers, you can also breathe in the Legionella bacteria in the form of water vapors. However, note that Legionellosis isn't contagious.

Symptoms of Legionnaires' Disease

Legionnaires’ disease has pneumonia-like symptoms that can start from the second to the fourteenth day after exposure to the bacteria. The signs and symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include:

● Headaches

● High fever (Over 40 degree Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit)

● Diarrhea

● Dyspnea (Shortness of breath)

● Muscle aches

● Confusion

● Nausea

● Hemoptysis (Coughing up blood)

● Stomach pain

Even though Legionnaires' disease primarily infects your lungs, in severe cases, you might also have gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms.

Legionnaires' Disease | Diagnosis, Management, and Treatment

Sputum (phlegm or mucus) and urine tests are commonly used to diagnose Legionnaires'. Your healthcare provider might also ask you to get a CT scan or chest X-ray to determine the infection's severity. Other methods to diagnose and treat Legionnaires' disease are blood tests, bronchoscopy, and thoracentesis.

Whether in the form of a pill or IV, the good news is that Legionnaires' disease can be easily treated with antibiotics such as Azithromycin, Rifampin, Minocycline, Doxycycline, Tetracycline, Ciprofloxacin, Moxifloxacin, and Levofloxacin. If you have trouble breathing, the healthcare provider might ask you to get admitted so that they can monitor your oxygen levels and provide you with the necessary treatment accordingly. Note that the medications take at least 1 to 3 weeks to completely remove the bacteria from your body.

Legionnaires' Disease | Prevention Tips

The only way to prevent Legionnaires' disease outbreaks is to have a robust water management system in commercial establishments to ensure that the water bodies are cleaned and maintained regularly. Additionally, property managers must also ensure to disinfect the ventilation systems on a daily basis. You can also protect yourself from contracting Legionnaires' disease by making sure that the hot tubs, humidifiers, faucets, and showerheads are cleaned properly.

Hire the Best Legionnaires' Disease Lawyer in Illinois

You can contact Legionnaires' disease from the grocery store, a cruise ship, or any other commercial establishment with poor sanitation practices. The severe symptoms of Legionellosis can take a toll on your health. The highly skilled and experienced attorneys at Newland & Newland, LLP can help you get fair compensation for the pain, suffering, mental anguish, hefty medical bills, and missed work days. Our lawyers will do everything in their power to get you a fair deal. Take legal action by punishing the legible parties with Newland & Newland, LLP. Call us to schedule a free phone consultation today!

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