Legionnaire disease is an infection of the lungs and airways. It is caused by Legionella bacteria.
The bacteria that cause Legionnaire disease have been found in water delivery systems. They can survive in the warm, moist air conditioning systems of large buildings, including hospitals.
Most cases are caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila. The rest of the cases are caused by other Legionella species.
Spread of the bacteria from person to person has not been proven.
Most infections occur in middle-aged or older people. In rare cases, children can get the infection. When they do, the disease is less severe.
Risk factors include:
Symptoms tend to get worse during the first 4 to 6 days. They most often improve in another 4 to 5 days.
Symptoms may include:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. Abnormal sounds, called crackles, may be heard when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.
Tests that may be done include:
Antibiotics are used to fight the infection. Treatment is started as soon as Legionnaire disease is suspected, without waiting for results of any lab test.
Other treatments may include receiving:
Legionnaire disease can be life threatening. The risk of dying is higher in people who:
Contact your provider right away if you have any type of breathing problem and think you have symptoms of Legionnaire disease.
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.