Illinois health officials reported today two additional deaths in residents of the Illinois Veteran’s Home – Quincy, bringing the total fatalities to nine. The case count stands at 53 since the outbreak began in late August.
In California, last week administrators at San Quentin State Prison (SQ) restored visiting and normal showering for inmates last Friday. As of Sept. 3, there are seven confirmed cases of inmates, and no confirmed cases of staff, with Legionnaires’ disease.
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.
Legionella bacteria are widely distributed, and normally grow best in warm water environments. They have been found in creeks and ponds, water taps (primarily hot water taps), hot water tanks, cooling towers and evaporative condensers, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains.
Most people contract the disease by inhaling mist or vapor from a water source contaminated with the bacteria.
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.
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today