Legionnaires' Disease Specialist Bristol, VA
*WARNING: this condition is potentially life-threatening. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, don't wait. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.*
Are you experiencing flulike symptoms such as a high fever (above 104), chills, fatigue, or a harsh cough? Are you also experiencing nausea, headaches, or shortness of breath? It may be Legionnaires' disease, a bacterial infection common during warmer months when cold and flu are much less common.
This disease is a severe form of pneumonia . It occurs when you breathe in water droplets from the water systems of hospitals, cruise ships, hotels, and other public places with shared water sources that have been contaminated by Legionella bacteria. Hot tubs, public showers, and even large air conditioners can also contain contaminated water.
If you're experiencing flulike symptoms after visiting a place with a shared water source, don't wait—seek medical attention right away. Legionnaires' is a serious illness than can be fatal if left untreated. Successful treatment and avoiding dangerous complications depends on beginning your treatment early.
What are the symptoms of Legionnaires' disease?
Symptoms are similar to those of severe flu and pneumonia . These include:
- high fever (above 104)
- harsh cough with or without mucus or blood
- muscle ache
- chest pain
It's important to remember that this condition occurs more frequently during the warmer months. During flu season, Legionnaires' disease is less common. Getting medical attention if you have these symptoms is important any time of year, so your medical provider can diagnose or rule Legionnaires' disease and identify your illness.
Many people exposed to the bacteria never get sick. However, if you do show symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Legionnaires' disease can be fatal if left untreated. Complications of leaving it untreated include:
- respiratory distress and failure
- kidney failure
- septic shock, which occurs when a serious infect causes organ failure and low blood pressure
Legionella bacteria may also cause a milder illness called Pontiac fever that doesn't cause pneumonia and isn't life-threatening. Symptoms are similar to those of mild flu, and the condition typically resolves without treatment.
What causes Legionnaires' disease?
Legionella bacteria are found in contaminated fresh water, usually in an indoors shared water source in a public location. The bacteria can survive outdoors, but they multiply rapidly in indoor water sources.
When maintenance like changing water and air filters inside commercial air conditioners isn't done properly, algae and bacteria can grow inside the cooling tower. When mist from the cooling tower disperses into the venting system, it can carry Legionella bacteria with it, which people can inhale into their lungs. Legionella can also be found in other water sources that aren't treated with chlorine, or inside improperly maintained venting or filtration systems.
Legionella sources include:
- cruise ships
- large air conditioning units commonly used in big office buildings and apartments
- public showers
- public pools and hot tubs
- natural bodies of water like lakes, rivers, ponds, and creeks (less commonly)
When you inhale contaminated droplets, the bacteria invade your lungs, causing pneumonia. Legionnaires' disease is not contagious. People can only get infected by inhaling water droplets or mist from a contaminated water source.
These risk factors increase your chance of developing this condition:
- being over 50 years of age
- having a weak immune system due to another illness
- having chronic lung disease or cancer
- being a tobacco smoker
How is Legionnaires' disease diagnosed?
Your medical provider will give examine you and discuss your symptoms. Most likely your blood will be drawn and you'll be asked to give a urine sample. These samples are examined under a microscope for Legionella antigens - substances that your body recognizes as harmful.
Your provider may also take x-rays to determine the severity of your lung infection.
How is Legionnaires' disease treated?
Antibiotics are always used to treat this condition. You can expect your provider to prescribe antibiotics immediately, before you receive your lab results. This is because successful treatment and avoiding dangerous complications depends on starting treatment as early as possible.
Reserve Your Appointment Now
Legionnaires' disease shares many symptoms with cold, flu, or other respiratory illnesses, but it can be much more dangerous. If you have respiratory symptoms after entering a public water source, or if you've been exposed to commercial air conditioning, don't wait - call your medical provider or go to the nearest emergency room right away. Early treatment of Legionnaires' disease goes a long way toward faster recovery and preventing dangerous complications.
AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center
Address1604 Lamons Lane
Johnson City, TN 37604
9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tue: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wed: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thu: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm