Legionella (Legionnaires’ disease)

A dangerous bacteria called Legionella pneumophila is becoming more and more prevalent in public settings such as hospitals and nursing homes. We’ve created this useful Q & A on Legionella to help break down what you need to know to stay safe.

What is Legionella?

Legionnaires’ disease was discovered in 1976, when a deadly outbreak struck attendants of an American Legion convention in Philadelphia. It is a severe, and at times lethal, form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria.

How is it contracted?

The disease can be contracted by breathing in small droplets of water in the air that contain the Legionella pneumophila bacterium.

Where can it be found?

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Legionella bacteria can be found naturally in freshwater environments but can become a public health hazard when it grows inside the water systems of man-made buildings. They can be found in:

  • Cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • Hot tubs & whirlpools not drained between uses
  • Shower heads, sink faucets, and stagnant plumbing
  • Water systems in hotels, hospitals and nursing homes
  • Ice Machines
  • CPAP machines
  • Grocery store mist machines
  • Decorative fountains

How common is it?

The number of Legionella cases has been on the rise since 2000. In 2016, they were around 6,100 cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported in the United States.

What are the symptoms?

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Some of the most prevalent symptoms of the disease include coughing, muscle aches, fever, shortness of breath and headaches.

How dangerous is it?

Legionnaires’ disease is very serious. It can be treated with antibiotics at a hospital — however, around 1 out of every 10 people who contract the disease will die from it.

Who is most at risk?

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Adults over the age of 50, former and current smokers, and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk when exposed to Legionella.

What’s being done about it?

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued a requirement for all healthcare organizations to start water management plans that reduce the risk of Legionnella growth inside their buildings. Part of these plans include routine testing of their water systems by a state-certified testing laboratory.

How is it tested?

U.S. Water, LLC utilizes the Legiolert® Test for Legionella testing. This method offers unrivaled ease, speed, and accuracy. It is:

  • Easy due to a reduced sample preparation when compared to traditional cultural methods and a distinct brown color that indicates positive results.
  • Fast thanks to a streamlined workflow with less than 2 minutes of hands-on time. We provide confirmed results within 7 days, so that facilities can act quickly.
  • Accurate because it specifically detects the Legionella pneumophila bacterium, which is the primary cause of Legionnaires’ disease. The process eliminates any subjective interpretation that may come from traditional culture methods.

What can you do?

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If you manage a healthcare facility and are looking to start Legionella testings, U.S. Water, LLC has you covered! Click here to request pricing or schedule a test. You can also call us at (800) 923-2216 to speak directly with our team.

**All factual information regarding Legionella found on this page is brought to you by the CDC and Legionella.org.