Legionnaires’ Disease and Pontiac fever
Legionella which causes Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever, is a bacteria that commonly grows in HVAC cooling towers, where other bacteria and algae provide nutrients. Low concentrations of metals, such as iron, potassium and zinc have been known to enhance Legionella’s growth. Some types of rubber fittings in the cooling tower systems can also support the multiplication of L. pneumophila (Legionella – Legionnaire’s disease). When infected water droplets are areosolized and breathed in, disease may occur. It is critical that HVAC systems be routinely maintained to prevent this occurrence.
American Air Testing can test HVAC systems for Legionella. Building maintenance personnel should always follow the manufacturer’s directions on routine maintenance. This routine maintenance will generally reduce or eleminate the possibility of Legionella; however if algea growth is seen anywhere in the cooling tower system, testing should be done. Please call our offices for complete directions on preparations. Each system and location has different requirements.
A bit more on Legionella:
- Gram negative bacteria that is common in many environments
- There are known to be approximately 50 species and 70 subgroups
In 1976 the first outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease occurred in Philadelphia where a convention of Legionnaire’s was taking place. Droplets from a contaminated cooling tower system affected approximately 221 people and 34 deaths occurred. After many hours of investigation the Center for Disease Control identified the source of this infection to Legionella bacterium in the hotel’s cooling tower for the air conditioning system.
Legionnaire’s disease and Pontiac fever have two different forms:
- Pontiac fever is a respiratory illness without pneumonia and the symptoms usually are similar to acute influenza.
- Legionnaires’ disease symptoms include fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, loss of coordination and occasional diarrhea and vomiting.
If you have any reason to suspect that you may be infected with Legionellosis, you should immediately contact your primary health care provider or other medically trained health care professional.
However, keep in mind:
- Normally there is a 2 -10 day incubation
- One of the top three causes of community-acquired pneumonia
- L. pneumophila infections may be sub-clinical.
- 25% of the adult population may have antibodies present
- 8,000 to 18,000 people get legionellosis every year in the United States
- Many cases aren’t reported or treated
- Transmission does not occur from one person to another
- Legionellosis is most common in the Northeast United States, the Netherlands, England and Australia