Legionnaire's disease is an acute respiratory infection caused by Legionella bacteria.
The bacteria that cause Legionnaire's disease have been found in water delivery systems. They can survive in the warm, moist, air conditioning systems of large buildings, including hospitals.
Most cases are caused by Legionella pneumophila. The rest of the cases are caused by other Legionella species.
Spread of the bacteria from person to person has not been proven.
Most infections occur in middle-aged or older people, although they have been reported in children. Typically, the disease is less severe in children.
Risk factors include:
Symptoms tend to get worse during the first 4 - 6 days. They typically improve in another 4 - 5 days.
Symptoms may include:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam, and may hear abnormal sounds called crackles when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.
Tests that may be done include:
Antibiotics are used to fight the infection. Treatment is started as soon as Legionnaire's disease is suspected, without waiting for confirmation by lab test.
Antibiotics commonly used to treat this condition include:
Other treatments may include:
Legionnaire's disease can be life-threatening. The death rate is higher in patients with other diseases. The death rate for patients who develop Legionnaire's disease while in the hospital is close to 50%, especially when antibiotics are started late.
Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have any type of breathing problem.
Treating water delivery systems can prevent the spread of disease.
Legionella pneumonia; Pontiac fever
Edelstein PH, Ciancioti NP. Legionella. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone;2009:chap 232.
Torres A. MenÃ©ndez R, Wunderink R. Pyrogenic bacterial pneumonia and lung abscess. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 32.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2013, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.