The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported over 130 cases of Legionnaire’s Disease (causative agent is Legionella pneumophila) in various states. They got the disease while attending the Mountain State Fair.
Where Does Legionella Pneumophila Thrive
It thrives in warm water, such as misting tents and unsterilized air conditioners. When you inhale mist from the contaminated water, you can contract the disease.
Health officials linked the disease to a hot tub display in the Davis Event Center at the Agricultural Center. The center had vendors for hot tubs.
Those who got sick were likely to state that they walked by the said display. According to the test, one water sample had Legionella pneumophila. Even low levels of this bacterium can grow in hot tubs.
Legionella Pneumophila Causing Legionnaire’s Disease
This disease is a severe form of pneumonia. The inflammation is caused by Legionella.
People catch this disease by simply inhaling the bacteria from soil or water. If you have a weak immune system, you are at high risk of contracting this disease.
Legionella pneumophila can also cause Pontiac fever. It is a mild form of illness that resembles the flu. Pontiac fever caused by the said bacteria can be fatal if left untreated.
This disease can be cured through antibiotics. However, some patients could still face problems after treatment.
What are the Symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease
The disease develops within one to two days after being exposed to the bacteria. It starts with headaches, muscle aches, and fever.
On the third day, you will develop other symptoms, like cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. GI symptoms may also occur. Mental changes may happen.
This disease can also cause infections in other parts of the body, even though it primarily attacks the lungs.
Pontiac fever is a mild form of this disease. But it can produce fever, headaches, and muscles. It does not infect your lungs. And it will clear up within five days.
Most cases of this disease are caused by Legionella pneumophila. This bacterium can survive in soil and water. However, it will not automatically cause infection.
The bacterium can also thrive in a man-made water system, like air conditioners. You can also get this disease from home plumbing.
Most outbreaks of this disease occurred in large buildings with complex systems. These systems provide a friendly environment for the bacteria to start spreading and growing easier.
Inhaling the Contaminated Water Droplets
Most patients who got infected with this disease inhaled contaminated water droplets. It could be from a shower, faucet, and whirlpool and also hot tubs. The infection could also spread through hot water tanks, swimming pools, birthing bools, decorative foundations, and drinking water.
The infection can also be transmitted through aspiration. That is when liquids enter your lungs accidentally. It typically happens when you cough while drinking. As you aspirate water that contains such bacteria, you can have Legionnaire’s disease.
Some people got infected with this disease after they worked in contaminated potting soil.
Smokers are at High Risk
If you are exposed to Legionella pneumophila, you will not immediately become sick. But you are likely to develop the infection if you smoke.
The reason for this is that smoking damages your lungs. It makes you susceptible to lung infections.
Weak Immune System
You are also likely to get infected if you have a weak immune system. Patients with HIV/AIDS are prone to this infection. Those who are taking corticosteroids are also at risk of contracting this disease.
If you have chronic lung disease or a serious condition, then you are likely to get infected. You are also likely to develop this infection if you are over 50.
Complications of Legionnaires
This disease can develop into life-threatening complications if it is not treated properly. The complications will include respiratory failure, kidney failure, and septic shock. They can progress rapidly. It is especially true for patients with weakened immune systems.
Diagnosis of Legionella pneumophila
If your physician suspects that you have this disease, he will request a blood test. A urine test may also be needed to detect the presence of Legionella antigens. These are substances that your body will recognize as harmful.
A chest x-ray may also be necessary. But it does not confirm this disease, though. However, it can determine how severe your lung infection is.
It is treated with antibiotics. And it must start as soon as the disease is suspected. There is no need to wait for confirmation. If your doctor suspected that you have it, he may start you with a series of antibiotics right away. The reason for prompt treatment is that it can reduce the risk of complications.
You may need to be hospitalized to help you recover completely. However, some patients may not need to undergo care in the hospital.
If you have a weak immune system, though, because of a severe condition, you may need oxygen support. Thus, you require to stay in the hospital for a few days.
If you are healthy and received prompt treatment, the recovery time will be fast. The outlook after treatment is also good.
However, for elderly people with weakened immune function, the disease can be more serious. There is also a higher risk of developing complications.
How to Prevent Legionella pneumophila
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine yet for this disease. But it is possible to prevent it from arising. One of them is to disinfect and clean cooling towers frequently.
You should also drain and clean pools and hot tubs regularly. If you own a pool, make sure that you use chemical treatments, like chlorine. Your hot water system must be above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since having a weakened immune system can put you at risk of developing this disease, you must strengthen your immune system now. Choose a healthy lifestyle today. That is, you must stop smoking if you smoke.
You should also eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Then, make sure to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. You should also minimize stress and get enough sleep.
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