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Legionnaire's disease

Legionelosis Vall d'Hebron


Legionnaire's disease is a disease caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, that lives in contaminated water circuits such as water pipes, water tanks or reservoirs, cooling towers, swimming pools and jacuzzis.

It is contracted through the inhalation of contaminated water droplets, whether physically in the water or merely close by, due to the fact that it can spread from the water to the surrounding environment.

It normally causes a respiratory infection similar to pneumonia which if not diagnosed and treated early can be serious and life-threatening.







Legionnaire's disease causes the same symptoms as pneumonia (fever, chest pain, difficulty breathing), along with severe muscle pain and major impact on the feeling of general wellness.


Who is affected by the condition?

Legionnaire's disease can affect anyone who has come into contact with the bacteria which cause it, but it is more common among the elderly or people with a compromised immune system who have either come into contact with or breathed the vapour of water contaminated with legionella.



A diagnosis is reached through detection of the bacteria or its antibodies in the blood, once suspected due to the clinical characteristics of the patient (age of onset, fever, major impact on general wellness, muscle pain) or radiographies (indirect pulmonary pneumonia indirectly affecting the lungs). Isolation of the bacteria is relatively recent, as it requires special culture processes.

In fact, legionella was not identified as the cause of respiratory infection until 1976 during a pneumonia epidemic in the American Legion Convention in Philadelphia, to which it owes its name.


Standard treatment

Legionnaire's disease responds well to specific antibiotic treatment.

Early treatment is very important.


Standard tests

Chest x-ray, determination of legionella antibodies in the blood, specific cultures for the identification of legionella.



Epidemiological surveillance of detected cases (water pipes, air conditioning towers, swimming pools or jacuzzis involved) is very important for disinfection.

When a case of Legionnaire's disease is detected, public health authorities must initiate an investigation in order to find the source and eradicate it.

Legionella is not resistant to high temperatures and can usually be eliminated by intermittent increasing of the temperature of the pipes. This should always be carried out by a professional to ensure the proper elimination of the bacteria.


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