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Legionnaires' Disease: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, And How To Protect Yourself From The Disease

13 June 2017, 9:09 am EDT By Andrew Norman Tech Times
Two health clubs in Orange County were suspected to be sources of Legionnaires’ disease. The infection is a serious type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria.  ( Yale Rosen | Flickr )

Two fitness clubs in Los Angeles' Orange County are under scrutiny and are suspected of being Legionnaires' disease infection sources.

Three individuals who contracted the infection were linked to the club located in MetroWest at Kirkman Road. The other cases of Legionnaires' infection were associated with the LA Fitness club, situated in the Orange Blossom Trail.

Officials from the Florida Department of Health were sent to the clubs last week to collect water samples and conduct tests for Legionnaires' disease's detection. However, the results of these tests will not come out for another two weeks.

Till the results are out, one cannot say for certain that all four individuals contracted the infection at the La Fitness center, although all used fitness clubs. In the absence of other commonalties, the health officials have zoned in on the La Fitness club.

LA Fitness is yet to comment on any allegations pertaining to Legionnaires' disease's contraction at its club, but the management sent a notice to all its clients, requesting them to keep a lookout for any signs of the disease.

Legionnaires' Disease: How Does Its Spread?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionnaires' disease is a type of respiratory disease the Legionella bacteria causes. For the unfamiliar, Legionnaires' disease is a severe type of pneumonia.

The bacterium is generally found in freshwater ecosystems such as streams and lakes. However, it poses serious risk to human health and can also grow and spread on man-made water systems such as indoor plumbing, ventilators, hot water tanks and heaters, complex and large plumbing systems, and more.

The Legionella bacteria grows and reproduces inside a building water system. The bacterium multiplies and spreads through water droplets small enough for people to breathe them, with the bacteria in it. This is the most common way of contracting Legionnaires' disease.

People can also get the infection through "aspiration of drinking water." Basically, in such a case, the infected water goes down the incorrect pipe i.e. wind pipe or trachea, instead of the food pipe. Those with a higher aspiration risk are individuals who have trouble swallowing. Generally, those infected with Legionnaires' disease cannot spread it to others, but it is possible in rare situations.

Legionnaires' Disease: Signs And Symptoms

In the event of a person contracting Legionnaires' disease, he or she may feel shortness of breath, muscle pain, headache, chest pain, coughing, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting as the symptoms of the infection. People 50 years or above, along with former and current smokers, as well as people with cancer are at an increased risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease.

Apart from these people, individuals with a weak immune system and underlying ailments such as liver failure, kidney failure, and diabetes are also at a risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease.

Protection Against The Bacteria

Although there are currently no vaccines to cope with the Legionella bacteria, Legionnaires' disease can be treated with the help of antibiotics. However, it is better to be safe than to be sorry and, so, if a place is suspected for Legionnaires' disease, be careful to avoid the same. It is advisable to not use hot water tanks and heaters and hot tubs in these places, as well as shut down large plumbing systems, air coolers, and air-conditioning systems.

Photo: Yale Rosen | Flickr 

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