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Legionella (Legionnaires’ Disease and Pontiac Fever)

  • Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, collectively known as legionellosis.
  • The bacterium was named after an outbreak in 1976, when many people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion got sick with pneumonia (lung infection).
  • An estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people need care in a hospital due to Legionnaires’ disease each year in the United States.1
  • Most people with Legionnaires’ disease will have pneumonia since the Legionella bacteria grow and thrive in the lungs.
  • People get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) that has been contaminated with Legionella.
  • Legionellosis is not spread from person to person.
  • Legionella are found naturally in the environment, usually in warm water.
  • Keeping Legionella out of buildings’ water supplies and cooling towers, as well as pools, hot tubs, and fountains, is key to preventing infection.



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