Legionnaire's Disease is a type of pneumonia that is caused by a bacteria called Legionella. The bacteria was given this name because of an incident that occurred in 1976. In this year, a Philadelphia convention held by the American Legion was marred by an outbreak of serious illness amongst its attendees.
The disease was subsequently called Legionnaire's Disease, a disease in which symptoms include fever, chills, muscle pain, and a chronic cough. Symptoms often appear within two to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria. As the disease progresses, victims may experience nausea, vomiting, pains in the chest, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath.
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People contract Legionnaire's Disease when they breathe moist air contaminated by the Legionella bacteria. The bacteria thrives in a warm, damp environment, including areas around air conditioning systems, hot tubs, or plumbing systems. Smokers and people 65 years and older are at higher risk of developing this serious lung disease. In some cases, patients can die from Legionnaire's Disease if left untreated. This disease cannot be spread from person to person; it must be inhaled from the environment.
Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's Disease, can also cause another medical condition called Pontiac Fever. A mild illness resembling the flu, Pontiac Disease usually goes away on its own without the use of antibiotics or other medical treatments. In contrast, those who develop the more serous Legionnaire's Disease must receive antibiotics in order to be cured of this ailment. Treatment should begin as soon as possible in order to risk serious complications or even death.
Several complications can arise from the disease caused by Legionella bacteria. For example, some patients may experience respiratory failure, their lungs unable to accept enough oxygen. Others may suffer from a sudden drop in blood pressure. In order to compensate for this occurrence, the heart tries to work harder but becomes weaker in the process. Other patients may even experience kidney failure.
The physician will conduct a series of tests in order to determine if a patient has Legionnaire's Disease. Blood tests, CT scans, and tests of lung tissue and sputum are typical tests the doctor will conduct on a patient suspected of having this disease. The doctor may order a chest x-ray to determine if the patient has a lung infection. If it is determined that the patient has the disease, the physician will prescribe antibiotics to treat it. Antibiotic treatment is necessary since patients can die if the bacteria is not eliminated from the patient's body.