The Dangers & Prevention of Legionella – What Everyone Should Know

Legionellosis symptoms resemble other types of pneumonia and include fever, chills, cough (may or may not be productive), muscle aches, chest pain and diarrhea. A urine antigen test and lung culture can diagnose Legionellosis, but read the following article for a closer look of this deadly problem affecting the world today.

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Symptoms

Legionella bacteria (which you can learn about here) often causes pneumonia or flu-like symptoms in people with compromised immune systems, spreading through inhaling droplets sprayed from shower heads or air conditioning cooling towers and evaporative condensers; or aspirating through one’s mouth or nose instead of swallowing; more serious cases include respiratory failure and even septic shock; they typically arise between summer and early fall months.

Legionnaires’ disease shares similar symptoms with much other bacterial pneumonia, including high fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), muscle aches, and headache. It tends to spread most easily among individuals in long-term care facilities or hospitals who have recently undergone surgery or treatment with nebulizers, or are taking certain medications which lower immune responses in the body.

Doctors can diagnose Legionnaires’ disease by inspecting samples of sputum or urine for signs of Legionella bacteria. Chest x-rays may also be useful to look for pneumonia and treat most cases with fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as levofloxacin or moxifloxacin; in severe cases they may require intravenous antibiotics or oxygen therapy for hospitalization.

Diagnosis

Testing for the disease or disease-causing bacteria can help identify whether you have Legionnaires disease, which is an extremely serious form of pneumonia. The infection usually begins by breathing in a mist of water containing the bacteria – typically found in hot tubs, showers, fountains or cooling towers of large buildings – which then leads to inhaling mist filled with its mist.

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Other methods include drinking or bathing with bacteria-contaminated water or by breathing mist directly from sources contaminated with it; you may experience other symptoms like high fever, chills and coughing fits as soon as 72 hours have passed.

Alternatively, for sputum collection you must cough into a tube that collects mucus from the lungs; for either test you may also require blood testing to check for presence of Legionella bacteria; while your healthcare provider may perform chest X-ray or CT scan to look for signs of pneumonia.

Culturing respiratory samples using selective media (Legionella spp bacteriophage MGIT and charcoal yeast extract with iron and cysteine, CYE) is considered the gold standard in Legionella diagnosis. This approach offers superior sensitivity and specificity and can detect all species and serogroups of Legionella; furthermore it can match patients to environmental sources.

Treatment

Cleaning water systems that contain Legionella is possible through various means, with each option depending on factors like level of contamination, water chemistry and proven treatment effectiveness.

Legionnaires’ disease symptoms include high fever, chills and an often-dry cough that lasts several weeks. You may also experience headaches, muscle aches and weakness; chest X-rays will show classic signs of pneumonia. Most people affected by Legionnaires’ disease improve quickly with antibiotic therapy and can recover fully over time.

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics, like Levaquin and Cipro, are among the most frequently prescribed for Legionnaires’ disease. Water treatment via companies like Total Water Compliance can take care of the problem without the need of medications. However, these medications help reduce bacteria in your body as well as alleviating symptoms like pneumonia or sore throat; although full recovery from taking antibiotics may take up to several weeks.

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Total Water Compliance

Prevention

Individuals at increased risk for infection include those over 50, smokers and those who have chronic lung disease or an impaired immune system due to cancer treatment, organ transplantation, diabetes or HIV/AIDS. Travelers also pose an increased threat, since bacteria from hotels or cruise ships could come home with them after visiting.

Health care professionals should conduct Legionella tests on pneumonia patients and treat them accordingly with antibiotics. Hospital staff should notify local health departments promptly of suspected and confirmed cases of legionellosis.

Building owners and employers must manage water systems to limit bacterial growth. This involves regularly cleaning and disinfecting cooling towers, evaporative cooling towers, whirlpool spas, decorative fountains and hot tubs; workers who maintain these systems should receive training in safe work practices; health departments must monitor temperature in these water systems and test for Legionella according to state regulations.

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