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Published On: Wed, Oct 16th, 2013

Alabama: Lauderdale County legionella outbreak up to 11 cases

The number of cases of Legionella pneumonia in the northwest Alabama county of Lauderdale has increased in both confirmed and suspected cases of the respiratory bacterial disease.

legionnaires' disease

Legionella Image/CDC

According to Alabama Department of Public Health today, with the addition of another confirmed case, it brings the outbreak up to 11 cases. In addition, health officials say there are eight suspected cases being investigated.

The typical number of cases of Legionella in this area of the state is four annually.

Health department officials are working with local hospitals and doctors to find other patients with Legionella. In addition, they are checking for any potential environmental sources of the germ.

“We want to continue looking into these cases carefully to be sure that we raise awareness of this illness and recommend any actions to reduce environmental risks,”said Dr. Karen Landers, Assistant State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Legionnaires’ disease gained national notoriety in 1976 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered it during an epidemic of pneumonia among American legion members at a convention in Philadelphia.

The causative organism is the bacteria, Legionella pneumophila. Other species have also been implicated in Legionnaires’ disease. The legionella bacteria are found throughout nature, because of this most people become exposed to it but few develop symptoms.

The primary place in nature it’s found is water sources particularly at warmer temperatures; lakes, rivers and moist soil.

It is also found in man-made facilities (frequently the source of outbreaks) such as air-conditioning ducts and cooling towers, humidifiers,whirlpools and hospital equipment.

People get exposed through inhaling infectious aerosols from these water sources. There is no transmission from person to person.

The infection can appear in two clinical forms: Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever.

Both conditions are typified by headache, fever, body aches and occasionally abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Legionnaires’ disease is the cause of pneumonia where a non productive cough is typical. Fatality rates of this form of the infection are around 15 % even with improvements in treatment.

Pontiac fever is a self limiting flu-like illness that does not progress to pneumonia or death. Diagnosis is usually made by typical symptoms in a outbreak setting.

Diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease depends on identifying the bacteria in microbiological culture, detecting the antigen in urine samples or a fourfold increase in antibody titer.

Certain health conditions make you more susceptible to infection to include increasing age, smoking, chronic lung disease, malignancy and diabetes mellitus.

Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with antibiotics.

To following things can be done as preventive measures: cooling towers should be drained when not in use and cleaned to remove scale and sediment and biocides can be used to limit bacterial growth. Tap water should not be used in respiratory therapy devices.

CDC estimates that between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease in the United States each year; however, only about 3,000 are reported to CDC each year.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today.

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  1. […] a follow up to a report Wednesday, Dr. Karen Landers, Assistant State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health […]

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