Each year, about 5,000 people are diagnosed with Legionnairesâ€™ disease and at least 20 outbreaks are reported. Legionnairesâ€™ disease is a serious type of lung infection (pneumonia) that people can get by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated with Legionella. According to the latest CDC Vital Signs report, more effective water management might have prevented most of the Legionnairesâ€™ disease outbreaks that CDC investigated from 2000 through 2014. CDC advises building owners and managers to adopt newly published standards that promote Legionella water management programs
In 1976, CDC investigated the first outbreak of Legionnairesâ€™ disease. Legionella bacteria grows best in warm water that is not moving or that does not have enough disinfectant to kill germs, such as in hot tubs, decorative fountains, and showers. Most likely places for getting the disease are hotels, long-term care facilities, and hospitals. Legionnairesâ€™ disease outbreaks can also occur on cruise ships. Symptoms of the disease include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches, and headaches.
â€œMany of the Legionnairesâ€™ disease outbreaks in the United States over the past 15 years could have been prevented,â€ said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. â€œBetter water system management is the best way to reduce illness and save lives, and todayâ€™s report promotes tools to make that happen.â€
Building owners and managers can follow these steps:
- Learn about and follow newly published standards for Legionella water management programs. http://bit.ly/1Ph3wQP
- Determine if the water systems in your buildings are at increased risk of growing and spreading Legionella.
- Develop and use a Legionella water management program as needed. www.cdc.gov/legionella/WMPtoolkit
- Monitor and respond to changes in water quality.
Healthcare providers can tell patients if they are at increased risk for pneumonia, including Legionnairesâ€™ disease, and to seek care quickly if they develop symptoms of pneumonia. They should also report Legionnairesâ€™ disease lab tests to local public health authorities quickly, and test Legionnairesâ€™ disease in people with serious pneumonia.