By NewsDesk @bactiman63

Maine health officials confirmed four recent cases of Legionella in the Bangor area. All four individuals were hospitalized.

Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is investigating the cases to determine if there is a common exposure among them.

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments, such as lakes and streams. Legionella can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made building water systems such as cooling towers used in air conditioning systems, hot tubs, fountains, and large plumbing systems. Legionnaires’ disease, which is a type of pneumonia, may result when individuals breathe in droplets of water that contain the bacteria. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches.

Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. Those at increased risk of getting sick are people age 50 years and older; current or former smokers; people with a chronic lung disease, weak immune systems, or cancer; and people with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.

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Doctors use chest x-rays or physical exams to check for pneumonia and may also order tests on a sample of urine and sputum (phlegm) to determine if a lung infection is caused by Legionella. Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics. Most people who get sick need care in a hospital but make a full recovery. However, about 1 out of 10 people who get Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.

Legionella cases have been on the rise in the United States since 2000. About 9,000 cases were reported in 2019. Maine has averaged 21.4 cases per year since 2016.