Legionnaires’ Disease

February 2, 2017

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia. It is caused by Legionella bacteria which are found in damp or wet environments. hey are found in natural water bodies such as rivers, lakes, creeks and hot springs. The bacteria are also found in spas, potting mix, warm water systems and artificial systems that use water for cooling, heating or industrial processes, such as cooling towers.

People get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria, such as the water droplets sprayed from a hot tub that hasn’t been properly cleaned, according to the CDC. The bacteria don’t spread from person to person, like the flu or a cold.

Most people exposed to legionella don’t become sick. Smokers, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible than others to Legionnaires’ disease, according to the studies. Symptoms include fever, chillls, headaches and muscle pain, which can progress to coughing, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and difficulty breathing

Between 5% and 30% of patients with Legionnaires’ die in U.S.


The bacteria which cause Legionnaires’ disease – Legionella – exist in rivers, lakes and other places with fresh water – usually in low numbers because the water temperature in such places is too low for the bacteria to multiply rapidly.

Artificial water systems on the other hand, where water temperatures may be higher – between 20-45C (68-113F) – are sometimes ideal environments where the bacterium can multiply rapidly and spread, infecting major parts of the water system.

For the bacteria to reproduce and spread rapidly it needs the right temperature and the right food. Impurities, such as algae, sludge, rust and lime scale are types of food for this sort of bacteria.

So, any hotel, hospital or large building with an air conditioning system that uses water for cooling might sometimes have the ideal environment in which the bacteria can thrive.

Experts say that any type of artificial water system can potentially become contaminated, including fountains, baths, showers, water taps, gardening sprinklers, spas and humidifiers used to display food.

Risk Factors

Not everyone exposed to legionella bacteria becomes sick. People are more likely to develop the infection if they –

  • Smoke – Smoking damages the lungs, making you more susceptible to all types of lung infections.
  • Have a weakened immune system as a result of HIV/AIDS or certain medications, especially corticosteroids and drugs taken to prevent organ rejection after a transplant.
  • Have a chronic lung disease such as emphysema or another serious condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or cancer.
  • Are 50 years of age or older.
  • Legionnaires’ disease is a sporadic and local problem in hospitals and nursing homes, where germs may spread easily and people are vulnerable to infection.


Legionnaires’ disease can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other types of pneumonia and it often looks the same on a chest x-ray. Specific tests are needed to determine if a case of pneumonia is Legionnaires’ disease.

The most common symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include –

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • High fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches

These symptoms usually begin 2 to 10 days after being exposed to the bacteria, but it can take longer so people should watch for symptoms for about 2 weeks after exposure.

Pontiac Fever – Pontiac fever has many of the same symptoms as Legionnaires’ disease, primarily fever and muscle aches, but it is a milder infection. Symptoms begin between a few hours to 3 days after being exposed to the bacteria and usually last less than a week. Pontiac fever is different from Legionnaires’ disease because someone with Pontiac fever does not have pneumonia.


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

  • Respiratory failure – This occurs when the lungs are no longer able to 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 the kidneys’ ability to perform their main function — filtering waste material from your blood. When the kidneys fail, dangerous levels of fluid and waste accumulate in the body.


Most people who are diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease will need to be treated with antibiotics such as erythromycin and ciprofloxacin.

Other treatments may include receiving –

  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Oxygen, which is given through a mask or breathing machine

People with Pontiac fever generally recover spontaneously within 2 to 5 days without treatment.

Alternative Treatment

Carotenoid complex & Beta carotene – Forerunners of vitamin A helps to prevent lung damage.

Vitamin C – Potent antioxidant. Destroys bacteria. Consider intravenous treatment under a physician’s care.

Bioflavonoids – Potent antioxidant. Destroys bacteria. Consider intravenous treatment under a physician’s care.

Coenzyme Q10 – Controls and enhances immune system. Transports oxygen to cells.

L-Carnitine plus L-cysteine – Enhances immune system. Prevents damage to lung tissues.

Lactobacilli – Kills bacteria. Promotes healthy digestion.

Vitamin B complex – A mix of coenzymes. Promotes healthy cell function. Prevents cell damage.

Vitamin A – Enhances immune system. Helps replenish lung tissue and prevent it from becoming damaged. Emulsion form is recommended.

Raw thymus and raw lung glandular – Boosts immune system. Enhances lungs and thymus.

Zinc – Enhances immune system. Zinc gluconate lozenges are recommended.

Vitamin E – Antioxidant. Prevents lung tissue damage. Emulsion form is recommended.

Catnip – Catnip Tea can help to lower the fever.

Echinacea – Echinacea can boost the immune system.

Goldenseal – Goldenseal acts as a natural antibiotic and can encourage healing.


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