A lung infection that differs in severity, Legionellosis is caused mostly by Legionella pneumophila bacteria that thrive in warm water. The two distinct forms of legionellosis are Pontiac Fever and Legionnaries’ disease (also known as Legion Fever).
Pontiac fever is a mild respiratory infection that has the potential to heal without treatment unlike Legionnaries disease that can prove to be lethal and a potentially life threatening pneumonic form if not diagnosed at an early stage.
The name of this disease came into account after the outbreak of pneumonia on July 27, 1976 during the American Legion convention held in Philadelphia which claimed 34 lives.
The occurrence of this disease is not restricted to an outbreak but also attributes itself to isolated, singular cases. Outbreaks of Legionnaries’ disease occur in different parts of the world anytime of the year but are visibly more prominent during summer and autumn.
The death rate when antibiotics are administered late is relatively high while it is relatively low when treatment starts at an early stage. Legionellosis infection occurs when fine aerosol particles carrying bacteria, suspended in air are inhaled straight to the lungs.
These aerosol particles carrying the bacteria can come from a contaminated water source through misting devices, cooling towers, large air conditioning systems, hot water tanks, spas, and artificial fountains.
Due to lack of poor maintenance of cooling devices and pipework individuals can develop legionellosis at a hospital workplace or a hotel. Other potential sources where the where the legionella pneumophila thrive are ponds, creeks and canals.
The symptoms in this disease may vary among different individuals but common occurances in most cases include loss of appetite, fatigue, cough, joint pain headache, fever, muscle ache, ataxia and numbness in the head. These symptoms are also accompanied by irregular vomiting and diarrhea.
Tests with the help of urine and blood samples of the individual have to be performed to provide a detailed and accurate detection of Legionella pneumpomphila.
Although anyone can be infected with this disease, it is observed that individuals in the age group of 40 and above are more likely to be affected. Individuals who smoke cigarettes or suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses are also at a high risk of being affected by the disease.
If an individual is suffering from HIV, cancer, or diabetes is affected by legionellosis, pneumonic complications can arise due to decreased levels of immunity. Most fatalities that occur are either because of an improper diagnosis or delay in administering antibiotics.
Antibiotics that are commonly used to treat legionellosis are azithromycin and levofloxacin. Tetracyclines among the age group between 12 and 17 and quinolones for individuals above 18 are commonly prescribed. A clinical and accurate diagnosis makes a huge difference in reducing the mortality rate occurring from this disease.
The main complication that arises in severe cases of Legionellosis is respiratory failure that sometimes leads to multiple organ failure and eventually death. With improved diagnostic centers all over the world, treatment can be administered at an early stage thus reducing mortalities.