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The Danger of Legionella: A Threat to Public Health


Legionella is a type of bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' disease, a severe form of pneumonia. The bacteria is commonly found in freshwater environments, including lakes and rivers, but can also be present in man-made water systems, such as cooling towers, hot tubs, and plumbing systems.

Legionella is a type of bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' disease, a severe form of pneumonia

How dangerous is it?

Legionnaires' disease is a potentially fatal illness that can affect anyone, but individuals with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly or those with chronic illnesses, are at a higher risk of developing the disease. Symptoms include high fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and headaches.

One of the notable Legionella outbreak in the history was recorded in 1976 at Philadephia, USA. It was the first identified case which over 200 victims fell sickness with cold and flu-like symptoms and 34 people lost their lives. The recent outbreak took place in USA region at 2015 was in New York City where at least 120 cases and 12 deaths happened by the cooling towers in the South Bronx. Almost 90% of the patients were asked for hospitalization. In the very recent years of 2022, there were Legionella infections in North Carolina. An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in North Carolina has caused four deaths. Linked to a hot tubs display at an event center during the NC Mountain State Fair, there have been 141 confirmed cases in the last month. Legionnaires' disease is contracted by inhaling Legionella bacteria found in mist or water droplets.

Source of infection

The common factor that endangered the public health was water providing system. The spread of Legionella can be prevented by properly maintaining water systems and implementing water management plans. However, many middle-income countries lack the necessary resources and infrastructure to properly manage their water systems, putting their populations at risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease. The lackless in caution for the water system in high-income countries also cause severe illness in the population.

The spread of Legionella can be prevented by properly maintaining water systems and implementing water management plans.

Although we know the danger of Legionnaires' disease, overall rate of infection rate was 2.2 cases per 100,000 population in European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA). In the perspective of publich health, the health professionals play a crucial role in identifying and diagnosing Legionnaires' disease. It's important for them to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors, as well as the appropriate diagnostic tests and treatment options.

Screening of the infection of Legionella

The perferred and easier way to detect the infection status is the urinary antigen test (UAT). It detects a molecule of the Legionella bacterium in urine. There are other tests to find the existence of the bacterium, but it takes longer. Serological test can be the alternative solution but the speicificty is not confirmed.

It's important to raise awareness of the danger of Legionella and the importance of proper water management. By taking proactive measures to prevent the spread of Legionella, we can protect public health and save lives.

Takeaway message

In conclusion, Legionella is a serious threat to public health that requires attention and action. By increasing awareness, promoting proper water management, and providing diagnostic tools, we can work together to prevent the spread of Legionnaires' disease and protect our communities.

  1. WHO, Legionellosis, 2022

  2. CDC, Legionella (Legionnaires' Disease and Pontiac Fever), 2022

  3. Mayoclinic, Legionnaires' disease, 2022

  4. Chavez, N., & Lynch, J. (2019b, October 18). Death toll rises after a legionnaires’ disease outbreak in North Carolina. CNN.

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