Pathological study determining that the Legionnaires disease is a respiratory disease; that occuring when the bacteria Legionella pneumophila infect the lungs. This may also lead people still dying from Legionnaires disease. The number of reports of Legionnaires disease increasing all over 500% in the United States.
Many factors contribute to this increase; a true increase in cases, an older population at higher risk, better diagnosis, improving disease reporting; and more thorough investigation of outbreaks by health departments. However, the fact remains that each year over 6,000 people are infecting and over 250 people die from a disease that is largely preventable.
But the study investigating outbreaks of disease for the health department in Las Vegas and I dealt with Legionnaires’ disease in Las Vegas Strip hotels on numerous occasions; including repeatedly investigating one resort that spent eight years fighting the pathogen. Legionnaires’ disease is a respiratory disease that occurs when the bacteria Legionella pneumophila infect the lungs.
Legionella pneumophila pathogens
In order to become sick, you have to inhale microscopic droplets of water that are contaminating with the bacteria. Simply drinking contaminated water is not enough to make you sick. After a couple of days, these symptoms progress to pneumonia, a buildup of fluid in the lungs that makes it difficult to breathe. In 2014 and 2015, more than 95% of people with Legionnaires’ disease wound up being hospitalized.
While the disease is treatable with antibiotics, about 1 in 8 still died from their infection. Although the bacteria can infect people of all ages, more than 80% of reported cases were 50 years old or older and about 60% were men. Smokers and people with underlying lung diseases such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or weakened immune systems, due to medicines or health problems such as cancer or diabetes, are also at higher risk of infection.
Man made water systems
Legionella pneumophila can be regularly found in fresh water all over the world, which makes preventing disease a particular challenge. We also know that man made water systems, including hot tubs, cooling towers, misters, fountains, hot water tanks, and even the complex plumbing systems in big buildings can grow and spread Legionella.
Two things have to happen for a person to develop Legionnaires’ disease. First, a person has to be exposing to the bacteria through inhaling small droplets of water. Then the bacteria has to multiply until there are enough of them to cause disease. The first factor is impossible to control, as exposure occurs through breathing contaminated water. For example, if you take a shower; there is no way to prevent breathing in the fine mist creating by the shower head.