Legionnaires Disease

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Legionnaires’ disease is a lung-based infection caused by the legionella bacteria that can potentially become very serious if not treated adequately.  It causes the lungs to become inflamed and can resemble a critical pneumonia-type illness.  This type of infection can usually be successfully treated through the use of an antibiotic with a full restoration of health, but there have been cases reported that resulted in demise in those with an already compromised autoimmune system.  The Legionnaires disease bacterium inhabits the environment in a very natural sense.  The legionella bacteria tend to prosper the greatest within water and can be found residing in locations such as improperly cleaned hot tubs.  Inhalation of the condensation produced by an infected hot tub is one way of coming in contact with the legionella bacteria. 

An epidemic of the illness is normally considered after at least two or more cases result in approximately the same time frame and from a specific locality.  It is also worthy to note that Legionnaires disease cannot be caught from other people who are infected.  There are several impediments that can result from Legionnaires disease and some are considered to be life threatening such as a breakdown of the respiratory system or sudden malfunction of the kidneys. 

The symptoms caused by this illness are somewhat similar to that of pneumonia and can be quite difficult to diagnose in the early stages.  Following coming in contact with the legionella bacteria, an individual will normally start to show signs of infection after approximately 2-14 days.  Legionnaires disease is now one of the etiologies considered in any case of suspected pneumonia.  If a person is suspected to be infected by the legionella bacteria, diagnostic testing through the use of chest x-rays will need to be performed to verify if, in fact, an individual is infected or not by the bacteria.  Other testing may include a biopsy of the lungs if the chest x-rays findings are considered impressive.  Should the individual show any indicators of neurologic findings, further testing may include testing of the cerebrospinal fluid also known as a lumbar puncture. 

The risk factors for Legionnaires disease are increased to a much greater extent in those with unremitting lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or in HIV/AIDS patients in which the autoimmune system is impaired.  Should you suspect you might have Legionnaires disease or have knowingly been in contact with the legionella bacteria, receiving quick prompt treatment from a physician is the best way to ensure a full recovery.  


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