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Legionnaires' Disease Still a Concern Nearly 40 Years On

Many people have never heard of Legionnaires' disease. It often results from exposure to a bacterium called Legionella pneumophila. It got its name from an outbreak in 1976 of a then-unknown illness similar to pneumonia. Some of our readers may remember that over 200 people attending an American Legion convention in a Philadelphia hotel became ill, some fatally, from what became known as Legionnaires' disease.

Recently, New York City has been home to an outbreak that has so far sickened over 100 people and killed 12. This time, the center of the outbreak has been identified as a hotel in the South Bronx that used to be a theater where the Marx Brothers and Harry Houdini once took the stage.

Legionnaires' disease may take some time to recognize because its symptoms are similar to those experienced by those with other conditions. The initial symptoms include a fever, muscle pain, headache and chills. After a few days, those with Legionnaires' disease may start experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, cough, gastrointestinal distress and confusion.

Legionnaires' disease can be contracted when water enters the lungs from sources that contain the legionella bacteria. These include air conditioning systems, hot tubs, pools, water systems and fountains. Legionnaire's disease can be fatal because it can cause kidney failure, respiratory failure and septic shock.

Although it can impact anyone, some people are more susceptible to Legionnaires' disease than others. People over 50 as well as smokers, those with lung disease and/or a weakened immune system are particularly vulnerable.

Legionnaires' disease can occur anywhere. Florida residents who contract it and surviving family members of those who have died from the disease should consult with an attorney to determine what their legal options are against the location where they believe it was contracted.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Legionnaires' disease," accessed Aug. 11, 2015

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