The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) is investigating 2 additional cases of Legionnaires’ disease. To date, there have been 14 cases reported in Genesee County for 2016. GCHD and CDC are continuing to investigate the latest cases along with previously reported Legionnaires’ cases.

Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC
Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC

Legionnaires’ disease is a respiratory infection caused by Legionella bacteria. These bacteria can also cause a milder illness called Pontiac fever. The signs and symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, pneumonia, and sometimes diarrhea and abdominal pain. Pontiac fever has similar symptoms but does not progress to pneumonia. Antibiotics are highly effective against Legionella bacteria.

LISTEN: Legionnaires’ disease: An interview with Dr. Mark Edwards and Sarah Ferrari

Legionella bacteria are commonly found in the environment (rivers, lakes, streams). It is a waterborne disease, usually spread by man-made water supplies that aerosolize water, such as showers, hot water tanks, cooling towers, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains. People can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in a mist containing the bacteria. People may also be exposed to Legionella bacteria from water that “goes down the wrong pipe” (aspiration). In general, the bacteria are not spread from one person to another.

People who are at most risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease are those who are older, smokers/former smokers, have a weakened immune system, and those who have other underlying or chronic health conditions.