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Legionnaires' disease: It's causes and symptoms

You may have heard of Legionnaires' disease, but do you understand the risk of contracting it? Could you recognize the symptoms if someone you love is infected?

Legionnaires' disease is caused by a bacteria that thrives in wet conditions. Mass outbreaks of the disease are often associated with large buildings where the heating and cooling vents are easy to ignore and difficult to keep clean.

However, the bacteria can end up developing and spreading through a number of unexpected sources:

-- Hot tubs in resorts, hotels, or on cruise ships

-- Whirlpool tubs (including the walk-in kind) in hotels, nursing homes and physical therapy centers

-- Swimming pools, both public and private

-- Inside cooling towers used as part of the air conditioning system of larger buildings

-- Large plumbing systems, especially in places like nursing homes or residential care facilities where there are numerous bathrooms

-- Inside soda fountain machines at restaurants and the sinks of bars

-- In the water spouts of decorative fountains inside malls or hotels and outside in parks or city centers

-- On physical therapy equipment or in pools used for hydrotherapy

Most of the time, the bacteria is transmitted through a fine spray or mist that's inhaled, although other methods of contracting the disease are possible.. For example, bacteria-laden condensation can build up inside an air conditioning vent of an office building and then blow microscopic particles into the air, potentially infecting anyone on the premises.

Someone infected with the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease often shows symptoms within ten days. Headaches, hot and cold chills, fevers and muscle aches are common.

The initial symptoms are followed closely by a productive cough that may even bring up bloody mucus. Victims have difficulty breathing, chest pains, vomiting and changes in their mental functioning, like confusion. Legionnaires' disease can ultimately lead to heart, kidney and respiratory failure before killing its victim.

If someone contracts Legionnaires' disease, the odds are very good that negligence was involved. The bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow in a system that is kept clean and properly maintained. If you lost a close relative to Legionnaires' disease, contact an attorney about the possibility of a wrongful death claim.

Source: CDC.gov, "Legionella (Legionnaires' Disease and Pontiac Fever)," accessed June 02, 2017

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