The Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease is deeply concerned about the sporadic Legionnaires’ cases announced recently by health departments across the country. This summer alone, there were 107 cases across Michigan, 49 cases in Chicago, Illinois, and 8 cases in Essex County, New Jersey. Rhode Island also announced 30 cases since the beginning of June, a significant increase over recent years.
Sporadic Legionnaires’ disease cases, those not associated with an outbreak – defined as two or more cases from a common source or location– comprise 96% of all LD cases. Typically, sporadic cases do not receive full investigations, missing critical opportunities to properly identify the root cause of an individual’s illness. This also prevents a better understanding of the bacteria’s presence in our homes, workplaces and public water distribution systems, which means we are always chasing the next case, rather than preventing it.
The Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease is urging public health officials responding to Legionnaires’ diseases cases to thoroughly investigate every case, as we recently called for in Michigan. Investigations should look comprehensively at recent conditions that could upset local water systems and water source changes that could affect the water’s chemistry and system dynamics so the water that millions use and consume every day is safe and free from legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.
While the risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease is generally low, individuals who are over 50, smoke or have a weakened immune system are more susceptible to contracting the illness and we urge anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms to seek immediate medical attention and ask about Legionnaires’.