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Published On: Tue, Oct 22nd, 2013

Alabama: No new Legionella cases reported, case count remains at 15

Assistant State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), Dr. Karen Landers said there has been no new cases of Legionella pneumonia at this time and no new patients have been identified since Oct. 10.

Image/United States Geological Survey

Image/United States Geological Survey

The current outbreak in Florence, Al. case count stands at 15, with one death. All known cases have been associated with Glenwood Nursing Home facility. There are also 10 suspected cases that have yet to be confirmed.

According to the ADPH, positive environmental cultures for Legionella bacteria have been found from two cooling towers at Regency Square Mall and one cooling tower at Southwire. Testing continues to determine if there is a linkage between any cooling towers and the Glenwood Nursing Home outbreak.

Out of precaution for the community, the cooling towers have been turned off and the owners are working with the health department to receive information on proper cleaning of the towers. Cooling towers on rooftops can dispense water droplets over some distance.

Dr Landers said, “The general public in Florence, Ala., does not need to alter daily activities, including shopping, following a Legionella pneumonia outbreak.”

She continues, “Physicians and hospitals are monitoring the situation closely and are working to find any new cases of illness. Antibiotics prescribed by physicians to treat community acquired pneumonia are effective for Legionella, so no special antibiotics are needed.”

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 notransmission 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 regularly writes about infectious disease news for Examiner.com and administers the Outbreak News section of The Global Dispatch.

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