The Minnesota Department of Health is working with Hennepin County Public Health officials to investigate a cluster of five confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in people who live or work in Hopkins, Minn.

Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC
Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC

The people became ill between Aug. 4 and Sept. 1. Three are currently hospitalized, and two others were hospitalized and have recovered. The patients are all over the age of 50.

MDH and Hennepin County are still investigating the source of this outbreak. Legionnaires’ disease is spread by inhaling the fine spray (aerosols) from water sources containing Legionella bacteria. It is not spread person to person and you cannot get it by consuming water. Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease have been linked to cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings), cooling misters, decorative fountains or plumbing systems.

Minnesota typically sees 50 to 60 cases of Legionellosis each year. More than 60 cases have been reported in the state so far this year, mirroring a national increase in cases in 2016. No other clusters have been reported in Minnesota this year.

Most people exposed to Legionella don’t develop Legionnaires’ disease. People over the age of 50, smokers, or those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include muscle aches, chills, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite and coughing. These symptoms may be followed by high fever (102-105°F), pneumonia and occasionally abdominal pain and diarrhea.