Legionellosis is an infection caused by species of the bacterium Legionella, most notably L. pneumophila. At least 46 species and 70 serogroups have been identified. L. pneumophila, a ubiquitous aquatic organism that thrives in warm environments (25 to 45 °C with an optimum around 35 °C) causes over 90 % of Legionnaires Disease. more...
The disease has two distinct forms:
- Legionnaires' disease is the name for the more severe form of infection which includes pneumonia
- Pontiac fever is a milder respiratory illness without pneumonia caused by the same bacterium
Legionnaires' disease acquired its name in 1976 when an outbreak of pneumonia occurred among persons attending a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia. Later, the bacterium causing the illness was named Legionella.
On January 18, 1977 scientists identified a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of the mysterious "Legionnaires' disease."
An estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people get Legionnaires' disease in the United States each year. Some people can be infected with the Legionella bacterium and have mild symptoms or no illness at all.
Outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease receive significant media attention. However, this disease usually occurs as a single, isolated case not associated with any recognized outbreak. When outbreaks do occur, they are usually recognized in the summer and early fall, but cases may occur year-round. About 5% to 30% of people who have Legionnaires' disease die.
Patients with Legionnaires' disease usually have fever, chills, and a cough, which may be dry or may produce sputum. Some patients also have muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, and, occasionally, diarrhea. Laboratory tests may show that these patients' kidneys are not functioning properly. Chest X-rays often show pneumonia. It is difficult to distinguish Legionnaires' disease from other types of pneumonia by symptoms alone; other tests are required for diagnosis.
Persons with Pontiac fever experience fever and muscle aches and do not have pneumonia. They generally recover in 2 to 5 days without treatment.
The time between the patient's exposure to the bacterium and the onset of illness for Legionnaires' disease is 2 to 10 days; for Pontiac fever, it is shorter, generally a few hours to 2 days.
Intestinal Infections: These may only occur as part of respiratory infections, where gastrointestinal symptoms have on occasion been described.
Extraintestinal Infections: L. pneumophila is specifically considered as a pathogen of the respiratory tract, where it is a cause of atypical pneumonia, also known as Legionnaires' disease. Other infections have also been reported, including haemodialysis fistulae, pericarditis and wound and skin infections. Bacteraemia is often associated with Legionnaires' disease.
One species Legionella Longbeachae is contracted via inhaling infected compost or soil.
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