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Health

Legionnaires Disease

Hold Your Breath…

With every outbreak of Legionnaires Disease, the entire country seems to pay attention. Most people know that it's a terrible problem, and can be fatal, but don't know much else about it. But what are the causes of Legionnaires Disease? How do you find out if you have it? Are you even susceptible? And, most importantly:  Can it be cured?

What is Legionnaires Disease?

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Legionnaires Disease is a particular kind of pneumonia, caused by a certain type of bacteria. Because this particular strain is caused by bacteria, unlike other types of pneumonia, it isn't contagious; you won't spread it, nor will you catch it from someone infected.

What Causes Legionnaires Disease?

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Legionnaires Disease cannot be spread from person to person, like most other forms of pneumonia. You won't catch this from someone. Instead, it comes from inhaling a type of bacteria. This bacteria, legionella, must be inhaled for someone to catch Legionnaires Disease.

Good news, though: Not everyone who is infected with the bacteria gets symptoms!

Who Is Most Susceptible?

elderly man crossed hands

Normally, the people that are the most susceptible to Legionnaires Disease are also the ones that are susceptible to most other forms of pneumonia. This includes:

  • The elderly, particularly those fifty years of age or older, though there have been cases of younger people catching this.
  • Those with compromised immune systems are also at risk, as are the very young

How Is It Diagnosed?

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Legionnaires Disease is normally diagnosed in the same way that almost all cases of pneumonia are: Through x-rays.

A technician will do a chest x-ray, and then examine it for the presence of some sort of fluid in the lungs. If you can't receive an x-ray, you'll likely undergo another type of imaging test. This may require a hospital stay.

Symptoms

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The symptoms of Legionnaires Disease are normally the same that you might expect from pneumonia, though they might get a bit worse or more varied. The main problems that you can expect are:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Pain in the chest or other muscles

You may also experience headaches or even mental confusion. It can affect the gastrointestinal tract, leading to diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting, as well.

Treatment

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Treatment for the main problem, the bacteria, will come in the form of potent antibiotics. Commonly prescribed for this are the antibiotics azithromycin or ciprofloxacin. This will help kill the bacteria that is causing Legionnaires Disease in the first place.

You will also likely be treated with medications to help the symptoms. This includes pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which also work as fever reducers; anti-nausea medications; and anti-diarrheal medication, if needed.

Is It Curable?

Yes! This is perhaps the best news, especially considering how Legionnaires Disease is portrayed in the media. Though it can be rough, and will likely require a hospital stay, Legionnaires Disease can be cured with antibiotics.

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It really is a frightening prospect. With the way that Legionnaires Disease is treated on the news, it almost seems like a hopeless illness, a metaphorical boogie man hiding in your vents. But, with the right know-how, you can see that it's curable. All it takes is some rest, antibiotics, and a good doctor before you'll be kissing Legionnaires Disease goodbye.

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