MDHHS warns residents of legionellosis during common infection season

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 6:49 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MICHIGAN (WNEM) - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is reminding residents to be aware of legionellosis, a respiratory infection that is most common in summer and early fall.

Legionellosis is a respiratory infection caused by Legionella bacteria, MDHHS said. It can present as Legionnaires’ disease with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, and pneumonia as or Pontiac fever, which has similar symptoms minus pneumonia.

The respiratory infection is most common in the summer and early fall because warm, stagnant water allows Legionella bacteria to grow in water systems, MDHHS said.

Water systems in large buildings, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains are common environments for the bacteria to grow. Transmission occurs if they are not cleaned and maintained properly.

Transmission of the bacteria to people usually occurs when water mist or vapor containing Legionella is inhaled, MDHHS said, adding legionellosis doesn’t spread person to person.

The following risk factors for exposure to Legionella bacteria are:

  • Recent travel with an overnight stay
  • Recent stay in a health care facility
  • Exposure to hot tubs or whirlpool spas
  • Exposure to settings where the plumbing has had recent repairs or maintenance work

Most healthy people don’t become infected or sick after an exposure to Legionella.

Individuals at a higher risk of getting sick include:

  • People over age 50
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with chronic lung disease
  • People with weakened immune systems from diseases or certain medications
  • People with chronic health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, or liver or kidney failure

“If you are at risk and may have been exposed to Legionella it is important to monitor your symptoms and contact your health care provider if you become ill,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “Legionnaires disease is treatable with antibiotics and health care providers are required to report cases to the health department.”

According to MDHHS, 186 confirmed legionellosis cases have been reported in Michigan through the end of July, compared to 196 cases in 2022.

2023′s cases are lower than the previous five-year (2018-2022) average of 234 confirmed legionellosis cases for the same time period of January through July, MDHHS said.

Those who have concerns about Legionnaires’ disease or exposure to the Legionella bacteria should talk to their health care provider.

Subscribe to the TV5 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every day.