How Common is Legionnaire’s Disease?

Legionnaire’s disease is a form of severe pneumonia that is caused by a particular kind of bacteria called legionella.

The disease was discovered in 1976 when an outbreak occurred in Philadelphia following an American Legion convention. In recent years, cases of Legionnaire’s disease have been increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 10,000 cases in the United States in 2018. However, the CDC states that they believe there were more cases than reported because the disease tends to be underdiagnosed.


Caregiver in Cambridge MA: Legionnaire’s Disease
Caregiver in Cambridge MA: Legionnaire’s Disease


How Does Legionnaire’s Disease Spread?
Most cases of Legionnaire’s disease are contracted by breathing in water droplets that contain the bacteria. The water droplets may come from a faucet, shower, or the heating system in a large building. Some sources that the disease has been linked to are:

  • Hot tubs and whirlpools.
  • Air conditioning systems.
  • Hot water heaters.
  • Fountains.
  • Swimming pools.
  • Drinking water.

It’s possible for seniors to contract the disease from water sources in their own home, but it is far more likely for them to become infected in large buildings where it is easier for the bacteria to multiply.


What Are the Symptoms?
Legionnaire’s disease typically begins within two and ten days of being exposed to the bacteria. The initial symptoms often include:

  • Muscle aches.
  • High fever, up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more.
  • Headache.

Within a few days, other symptoms begin to appear, such as:

  • Coughing, which may produce mucus or blood.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
  • Confusion.

The lungs are the most common site of infection from the legionella bacteria. However, it is possible for infection to happen in other parts of the body, including the heart.

If you think your older family member has been exposed to legionella bacteria, it’s important that they see a doctor right away. When the disease is treated early, the outcome is more successful. The treatment period is often shorter. In addition, early treatment can help to avoid complications.

If your older family member is diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease, it may take them some time to fully recover. During their recovery period at home, elder care can help them to continue getting better. An elder care provider can allow them to rest while taking care of household tasks and meal preparation. Elder care providers can also remind the older adult to take medications prescribed by the doctor to control symptoms and treat the infection.

If you or an aging loved-one is considering a Caregiver in Cambridge, MA, please contact the caring staff at Visiting Nurse & Community Care today. (781) 643-6090