By Jory Lange

Three people in Clark, New Jersey, have been diagnosed with Legionnaires disease, according to Mayor Sal Bonaccorso.  These are part of the cluster of cases of Legionnaires disease in Union County, New Jersey.  “I want residents to understand there is no need to panic.  We are . . . working with the CDC and taking it extremely seriously,” says Mayor Bonoccorso.  “The good thing is this is curable with antibiotics, so it’s important to get medical attention if experiencing flu-like symptoms.”  In Union County, 5 people have died and 22 people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires disease.

This image depicts two Legionella pneumophila bacterial colonies (arrowheads), amongst other bacterial colonies grown on BCYE (Buffered Charcoal Yeast Extract) agar/CDC

Public health officials are investigating a cluster of Legionnaires disease among people who live in⎯or have recently visited⎯Union County, New Jersey.  Between March 8 and May 13, 22 people who lived in or had visited Union County developed Legionnaires disease. 5 of those people died. The “vast majority” of those who developed Legionnaires disease live in Union County.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Department recommends that individuals who live in Union County who become ill with pneumonia-like/respiratory symptoms, such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and headache, visit their healthcare provider,” says Shereef Elnahal, New Jersey Health Commissioner.

“Legionnaires’ disease is not spread person to person and you cannot get it by drinking water,” added Elnahal.

Legionnaires disease comes from breathing in water vapor that has been contaminated with legionella bacteria.  Air conditioning units for large buildings (called “cooling towers”), decorative fountains, hot tubs, and plumbing systems in large buildings can aerosolize water, making it possible for people to breathe in water vapor containing dangerous legionella bacteria.