Legionnaires’ disease, legionella, is severe pneumonia that affects between 100 and 150 people in some parts of Europe per year. It infects by inhaling small drops of contaminated water. The treatment is antibiotics. Sometimes hospital care is needed.
The infection is caused by legionella bacteria that multiply in stagnant water and can contaminate water pipes, air conditioners, showers, and hot tubs.
You can become infected by inhaling contaminated water in the form of atomized water droplets in the air, for example when you shower or sit in a hot tub.
The Legionella bacterium is less dangerous for healthy people. People who are otherwise healthy can suffer, but it is mainly people with impaired immune systems who become most seriously ill. The risk is even greater for smokers.
Legionella is a notifiable disease according to the Infection Protection Act. This means that the treating doctor makes a report to the infection control doctor in the county where you live and to the Public Health Agency.
Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease
Legionnaire’s disease manifests itself as pneumonia with high fever, headache, muscle pain, affected breathing and dry cough. Diarrhea and mental impact with confusion occurs.
If you have received antibiotics for pneumonia and are not getting better, it may be because you have Legionnaires disease.
The disease can be serious – especially when it affects people with impaired immune systems.
The time from infection to illness is usually five to six days.
Preventing Legionnaires’ Disease
Legionella bacteria grow at a water temperature between 18 and 45 degrees Celsius. Keeping the water temperature in piping systems and tanks at least 60 degrees Celsius reduces the risk of infection.
There is no vaccine for legionnaires disease.
Seek medical care directly at a health center or emergency room if you have respiratory problems.
Contact your health care center if you have a fever that does not go down after four days while you have a cough.
Study in Legionnaires’ Disease
Pulmonary x-ray shows if you have pneumonia. Specimens from expectoration and urine can show on legionella bacteria. A blood test can detect any antibodies to the legionella bacterium.
Treatment of Legionnaires Disease
Legionnaires disease is treated, like other bacterial infections, with antibiotics. It is often a different type of antibiotic than those commonly used to treat pneumonia. The infection often requires hospital care. In severe cases, respiratory care may be needed.