Seven cases of Legionnaires’ Disease have been reported at an assisted living facility in Waverly, Maryland. According to the Baltimore City Health Department, all the people were living at Stadium Place Apartments before they were diagnosed with the disease. So far, the disease has claimed the life of one of the residents.
What is Legionnaires Disease?
Legionnaires disease is an infectious disease caused by the Legionella bacteria. There are two types of Legionnaires disease: Legion fever (where people generally develop pneumonia) and Pontiac Fever (symptoms similar to the flu).
Legionnaires disease got its name when a group from the American Legion conference all developed pneumonia. When scientists analyzed the group, they noticed that they all had the same bacterium called Legionella.
Although Legionnaires’ disease not contagious, outbreaks may occur in long-term care facilities due to contaminated water or heating equipment. Most authorities believe Legionnaires is contracted by inhaling airborne water droplets containing legionellae. Some authorities also believe that Legionnaires may be acquired by drinking contaminated water or using contaminated water to clean wounds.
Legionnaires disease is particularly dangerous for the elderly because they are significantly more susceptible to complications from pneumonia and fever compared to the general population. Fatality rates attributed to legionnaires are believed to be between 5 and 50%.
Legionnaires’ Disease in Long-Term Care Facilities: Overview and Proposed Solutions, Meena H. Seenivasan, Victor L. Yu, Robert R. Muder (Journal of American Geriatrics Society, 53:875-880, 2005.