Legionella bacteria has been detected in the water supply for four maintenance hangars at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and at least one employee demonstrated symptoms related to Legionnaires’ disease.
In an email response to Outbreak News Today, American Airlines spokesperson, Matt Miller wrote:
One of American’s employees recently reported having symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease. That employee has now returned to work. Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to test the water system at our maintenance hangars (where the employee works) for Legionella bacteria. As a part of that process, we determined that low levels of the bacteria were present at those facilities. It’s important to note that we don’t have any evidence to show it was contracted at our hangars, and only one employee has reported symptoms.
Nothing is more important than the safety and health of our employees. That’s why we’re taking extra precaution and establishing additional safety procedures. We’re installing filters on the showers and faucets in our hangars and making bottled water available. Our facilities continue to be a safe place to work, and we’re working with local authorities and our partners at the airport on long-term safety measures to ensure the cleanliness of the water at our hangars.
Legionellosis is a bacterial disease of the lungs caused by Legionella pneumophila. The disease can range from a mild respiratory illness to severe pneumonia and death. The most common form of legionellosis is known as “Legionnaires’ disease,” named after an outbreak in 1976 when many people who attended an American Legion conference in Philadelphia became ill.
Most people contract the disease by inhaling mist or vapor from a water source contaminated with the bacteria. The disease is not contracted by drinking contaminated water, and person-to-person spread of legionellosis does not occur.
People of any age may get Legionnaires’ disease, but the disease most often affects persons older than 50. The disease is rare in people younger than 20 years of age. People at high-risk of acquiring the disease include current and former smokers, persons with chronic lung disease like emphysema or COPD, or those with compromised immunity (like patients who receive corticosteroids or have had an organ transplant). People with underlying illnesses, such as cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, or AIDS are also at higher risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with legionellosis in the United States each year.