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Pontiac fever is a type of which disease: About Legionnaires Disease and Pontiac Fever

Legionnaires’ disease – Symptoms & causes


Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia — lung inflammation usually caused by infection. It’s caused by a bacterium known as legionella.

Most people catch Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling the bacteria from water or soil. Older adults, smokers and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease.

The legionella bacterium also causes Pontiac fever, a milder illness resembling the flu. Pontiac fever usually clears on its own, but untreated Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal. Although prompt treatment with antibiotics usually cures Legionnaires’ disease, some people continue to have problems after treatment.

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Legionnaires’ disease usually develops two to 10 days after exposure to legionella bacteria. It frequently begins with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever that may be 104 F (40 C) or higher

By the second or third day, you’ll develop other signs and symptoms that can include:

  • Cough, which might bring up mucus and sometimes blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Confusion or other mental changes

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and in other parts of the body, including the heart.

A mild form of Legionnaires’ disease — known as Pontiac fever — can produce fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect your lungs, and symptoms usually clear within two to five days.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you think you’ve been exposed to legionella bacteria. Diagnosing and treating Legionnaires’ disease as soon as possible can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications. For people at high risk, such as smokers or older adults, prompt treatment is critical.


The bacterium Legionella pneumophila is responsible for most cases of Legionnaires’ disease. Outdoors, legionella bacteria survive in soil and water, but rarely cause infections. However, legionella bacteria can multiply in water systems made by humans, such as air conditioners.

Although it’s possible to get Legionnaires’ disease from home plumbing, most outbreaks have occurred in large buildings, perhaps because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily. Also, home and car air conditioning units don’t use water for cooling.

How the infection spreads

Most people become infected when they inhale microscopic water droplets containing legionella bacteria. This might be from the spray from a shower, faucet or whirlpool, or water from the ventilation system in a large building. Outbreaks have been linked to:

  • Hot tubs and whirlpools
  • Cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Decorative fountains
  • Swimming pools
  • Birthing pools
  • Drinking water

Besides by breathing in water droplets, the infection can be transmitted in other ways, including:

  • Aspiration. This occurs when liquids accidentally enter your lungs, usually because you cough or choke while drinking. If you aspirate water containing legionella bacteria, you can develop Legionnaires’ disease.
  • Soil. A few people have contracted Legionnaires’ disease after working in a garden or using contaminated potting soil.

Risk factors

Not everyone exposed to legionella bacteria becomes sick. You’re more likely to develop the infection if you:

  • Smoke. Smoking damages the lungs, making you more susceptible to all types of lung infections.
  • Have a weakened immune system. This can be a result of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or certain medications, especially corticosteroids and drugs taken to prevent organ rejection after a transplant.
  • Have a chronic lung disease or other serious condition. This includes emphysema, diabetes, kidney disease or cancer.
  • Are 50 years of age or older.

Legionnaires’ disease can be a problem in hospitals and nursing homes, where germs can spread easily and people are vulnerable to infection.


Legionnaires’ disease can lead to a number of life-threatening complications, including:

  • Respiratory failure. This occurs when the lungs can’t provide the body with enough oxygen or can’t remove enough carbon dioxide from the blood.
  • Septic shock. This occurs when a severe, sudden drop in blood pressure reduces blood flow to vital organs, especially to the kidneys and brain. The heart tries to compensate by increasing the volume of blood pumped, but the extra workload eventually weakens the heart and reduces blood flow even further.
  • Acute kidney failure. This is the sudden loss of your kidneys’ ability to filter waste from your blood. When your kidneys fail, dangerous levels of fluid and waste accumulate in your body.

When not treated promptly, Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal.


Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are preventable, but prevention requires water management systems in buildings that ensure that water is monitored and cleaned regularly.

To lower your personal risk, avoid smoking.

Legionnaires’ Disease and Pontiac Fever

What are Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever?

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia. It is caused by bacteria called Legionella pneumophila. The bacteria got its name in 1976, when a group of people attending an American Legion convention became infected. Although it was present before 1976, Legionnaires’ disease is being diagnosed more often now as doctors look for Legionella bacteria in people who have pneumonia. You can get Legionnaire’s disease at any time of the year, but more cases are usually found in the summer and early fall. While Legionnaires’ disease can be very serious, most cases can be treated successfully.

The Legionella pneumophila bacteria can also cause a less severe, flu-like condition known as Pontiac fever.

How are they spread?

People usually get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in aerosols that contain the bacteria. One example might be from breathing in the mist from air conditioning systems in large buildings that have not been properly cleaned and disinfected. Other sources include decorative fountains and water sources in hotels, cruise ships, nursing homes, and hospitals.

These diseases aren’t contagious. The bacteria are not spread from one person to another person. You can get the diseases again if you are exposed to the bacteria again.

Legionnaires’ disease typically affects people older than 45, especially if they smoke or have a long-term lung disease such as asthma. footnote 1 People with a weak immune system are also more likely to get the condition. Despite its being named after infecting a large group of people, Legionnaires’ disease usually occurs in single cases, not in large groups at one time (an outbreak).

Pontiac fever usually occurs in otherwise healthy people.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease produces symptoms similar to pneumonia that may include:

  • Cough.
  • High fever.
  • Chills.

Less common symptoms range from muscle aches and headaches to abdominal (belly) pain, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Legionnaire’s disease symptoms usually appear 1 day to 19 days after a person is exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Pontiac fever symptoms include fever and muscle aches. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 2 days after a person is exposed to the bacteria. They usually go away without treatment in a few days.

How are they diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose both Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever by asking about your past health and by doing a physical examination. If your doctor thinks you have Legionnaires’ disease, he or she will ask about your working conditions, if you have been around any possible source like fountains or hot tubs, and if you have travelled within the past 2 weeks. The doctor will also do tests. The tests may include a chest X-ray, blood test, urine test, or looking at mucus from your lungs.

How are Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever treated?

Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Treatment usually lasts at least 5 days.

Fever tends to improve or go away within the first few days. A cough may take longer to disappear. But in general you should start to feel better within the first few days of treatment. Complete recovery can take from 2 to 4 months.

Pontiac fever will go away without treatment. To reduce fever and muscle aches, drink plenty of fluids and consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs include ibuprofen (such as Advil and Motrin), naproxen (such as Aleve), and aspirin. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18 because of the risk of Reye syndrome. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

What should you do if you think you were exposed to the


Most people who are exposed to the bacteria don’t become ill. But if you believe you were exposed, talk to your doctor or local health unit. Be sure to tell them where you think you were exposed and if you have travelled in the last 2 weeks. This information will help them correctly diagnose and treat the disease, locate the source of the bacteria, and prevent others from being exposed to it.


Latin name: Legionella

Description : a genus of pathogenic microorganisms belonging to the class of bacteria. They are found in water environments, soils and other sources. More than 50 species of legionella have been described so far.

Distribution and effects on the body

This type of bacteria lives mainly in damp and damp places. The most comfortable temperature for education is in the range of 35-45 degrees Celsius. In the same interval, they actively reproduce in the aquatic environment. Among more than 50 types of microorganisms, a part is occupied by relatively safe varieties. However, some of them are strong pathogens that provoke the occurrence of the following diseases:

  • Pontiac fever is an illness with severe flu-like symptoms
  • Legionellosis is a bacteriological infection that affects the lungs and causes pneumonia.

Due to their development in humid areas, air conditioners become a favorable breeding ground. Therefore, when designing them, it is necessary to lay down ways to reduce the number of microorganisms. In addition, a temperature of 35-45 degrees is often typical for hot water if the service provider does not comply with government requirements regarding water temperature. To avoid this factor, systems must meet two requirements:

  • Water temperature should not exceed 25 degrees (for cold) or be below 50 degrees (for hot)
  • Centralized systems must be equipped with water disinfection devices that effectively get rid of all pathogenic microorganisms without compromising the organoleptic characteristics of the water.

In addition, when building and planning heating systems, it is necessary to take into account sanitary and building standards so that water constantly circulates in the system and does not create stagnation in which these microorganisms multiply.

Other pathogen sources

In addition to hot and cold centralized systems, legionella can be a problem in cooling towers as well as other sources of moisture. Of particular danger are systems in which the multiplication of microorganisms occurs in water sprayed over a large area, spreading pathogens through the air and surfaces. Listed below are places where Legionella concentrations can significantly exceed the maximum allowable limits.

Drinking fountains. These installations take place in crowded places – parks, hotel complexes and airports. In the course of their work, water is sprayed and sprayed through the air, and microscopic particles can both settle on surfaces and enter the lungs. If the water source is in a warm place, or if the splashed particles do not dry out for a long time, this leads to the rapid reproduction of legionella.

Humidifiers. The principle of operation of most humidifiers is that water from a certain reservoir is sprayed into the air in tiny particles. If there is no evaporation during this process and the water in the tank is warm, the result can be a high concentration of legionella in the water compositions and air from which they enter the body. To avoid this, it is necessary to carefully monitor the composition of the water in the tank and change it to clean water before each use of the unit.

Open waters. In wells and springs, the pathogen is extremely rare. The reason for this is the temperature of groundwater and groundwater, which remains low even in the hot season. With open water, the situation is more complicated – shallow standing waters and swampy areas can warm up to high temperatures, in which Legionella feels very comfortable. When bathing in such reservoirs, the pathogen can enter the body through the lungs and gastrointestinal tract.

Permissible value

In modern regulations that describe the parameters of drinking and industrial water, open sources, as well as effluents, legionella is not found among microorganisms, the content of which is permissible even in a minimal amount. This suggests that water with such bacteria is dangerous for both drinking and recreation, and measures must be taken to disinfect such compounds.

Cleaning methods

Since Legionella is a bacterium, standard disinfection methods can be applied to it. These include:

  • Boil for at least 10 minutes
  • Adsorption using activated carbon filters or other substances
  • Chlorination – industrial water
  • Reverse osmosis

The final choice of method depends on the intended use of the liquid and the presence of other impurities.

ASHRAE Standard 188-2018 minimizes the risk of spreading Legionnaires’ disease

Pittsburgh pneumonia, Pontiac fever, legionella infection, Fort Bragg fever, legionnaires’ disease, legionellosis – behind these names lies an infectious disease that is characterized by severe pneumonia, fever and nephropathy. It is caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophilia, which can spread through water systems inside buildings.

To minimize the risk of its spread, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recently updated a voluntary consensus standard ASHRAE 188-2018 “Legionellosis: risk management within building plumbing systems”.

The causative agent of the disease was first identified in the United States in 1976, when the bacterium Legionella pneumophillia (“Legionella pneumophila”) caused an outbreak of pneumonia among people who attended the Philadelphia Convention of the American Legion – hence the name “legionnaires’ disease”. Since then, the number of cases has been on the rise. According to various estimates, tens and even hundreds of thousands of people fall ill with this disease every year.

What is legionnaires’ disease? Legionnaires’ disease is considered a form of pneumonia or pneumonia caused by infection through contact with the bacterium Legionella pneumophilia, to which people can be exposed after inhaling microscopic droplets of water containing microorganisms.

Legionnaires’ disease usually develops after two to ten days after exposure to the bacterium. It is characterized by initial symptoms in the form of headache, muscle pain, chills and fever, during which the patient’s body temperature may exceed 40°C (104°F).

After a few days, people who suffer from Legionnaires’ disease may experience severe coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, confusion, or other mental changes. The disease can be fatal.

The elderly, heavy smokers, people with weak immune systems, people with other serious illnesses (such as diabetes), including chronic lung disease, are particularly susceptible to legionnaires’ disease. Although it usually affects the lungs, the disease can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body.

Note that Legionella pneumophilia bacteria can also cause a less severe illness: a type of influenza known as Pontiac fever. This disease was so named because it was first identified in Pontiac, Michigan (USA) in 1968. Later, a link was found between this disease and the bacteria Legionella pneumophilia. Pontiac fever usually went away on its own. Pontiac fever and Legionnaires’ disease are considered two clinical forms of legionellosis.

Legionella pneumophilia enters the human lungs through aspiration or inhalation along with water spray. At the same time, Legionnaires’ disease is practically not transmitted from person to person. Although cases of such infection have previously occurred. The natural habitat for disease-causing bacteria is rivers, lakes, and streams, where they are relatively harmless.

Bacteria can thrive and pose a risk to human health only in certain environments. In fact, the presence of Legionella pneumophilia in building water systems alone is not enough to cause Legionnaires’ disease. Factors required for people to become infected with Legionnaires’ disease include the use of pipelines that carry water with certain parameters, as well as the use of facilities in the building that make it easier for the bacteria to enter the human body.

Often, outbreaks have occurred in hot tub spas and cruise ships, grocery stores with aerosol generators, and data centers with cooling tower air-conditioning systems. A high concentration of bacteria was observed near decorative fountains, swimming pools, in medical centers with physiotherapy equipment. Water systems in hotels, hospitals and nursing homes also became vehicles for their distribution.

Given the severity of Legionnaires’ disease and the potential for it to occur in connection with the operation of water supplies, there is a clear need to identify and eliminate factors that promote the growth and spread of Legionella pneumophilia.

The ANSI/ASHRAE 188-2018 Consensus Voluntary Standard mentioned above is intended to establish minimum requirements for the management of risks associated with legionellosis in the context of indoor water systems.

In particular, this standard provides minimum risk management requirements for the design, operation, maintenance, repair, replacement and expansion of new and existing buildings and their associated potable and non-potable water systems and their components.