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Legionnaires' Disease and Pontiac Fever (Legionellosis)

Legionnaires' Disease and Pontiac Fever (Legionellosis) Facts

  • Legionnaires' disease is a serious illness causing a pneumonia that can be fatal.
  • Pontiac fever is a self-limited, flu-like illness.
  • About 5,000 cases of Legionnaires' disease are reported every year in the U.S.
  • Legionnaires' disease is spread by water vapor and droplets containing the Legionella bacteria.
  • The bacteria responsible for Legionnaires' disease was first identified in 1976 during an outbreak at the American Legion convention in Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Legionellosis refers to the two clinical entities caused by the bacteria of the genus Legionella (Legionnaires' disease and Pontiac fever).

What Is the History of Legionnaires' Disease and Pontiac Fever (Legionellosis)?

Legionnaires' disease and Pontiac fever are two diseases caused by the bacterium Legionella. This organism was identified in 1976 during an outbreak at the American Legion Convention in Philadelphia. Subsequently, the organism was also linked to an earlier flu-like disease outbreak in Pontiac, Mich. Legionellosis refers to these two clinical entities caused by the bacteria of the genus Legionella.

Legionnaires' disease causes a severe form of pneumonia that can be very serious and even fatal. It requires treatment with antibiotics and supportive care. Many people with Legionnaires' disease will require hospitalization, especially the elderly and patients who have chronic illnesses.

Pontiac fever is a milder illness with flu-like symptoms (no pneumonia) that is self-limited and not known to cause any fatalities. Hospitalization is usually not necessary as basic supportive care (drinking plenty of fluids, acetaminophen [Tylenol] to lower the fever) is all that is necessary.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states about 5,000 cases of Legionnaires' disease are reported in the United States each year.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2016

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