The legionella is a bacterium that is usually present in fresh water, for example in streams and lakes, but also in water systems of buildingssuch as hot water tanks, large pipe systems or cooling towers, i.e. the structures that are part of centralized cooling systems and containing water and a fan. In addition, it can multiply in water fountains, hydromassage bathtubs, in the faucets of the hand washing machines or in the tank of the windshield wipers of the interlocutory.
The water containing the bacteria is dispersed in these systems in the form of small droplets, which can be aspirated by people. Then the infection occurs through these aerosols or also if people suck in water contaminated with legionella: this is a much less common form and happens when water goes into the lungs unintentionally, for example those who have trouble swallowing.
There is no risk of person-to-person contagionnor through the common air conditioners of homes or performancesas these do not use water as part of the cooling mechanism.
Legionella and bilateral pneumonia
Through the inhalation of aerosols or water droplets contaminated with legionellapeople can contract legionellosisa form of pneumonia that is potentially fatal. In Argentina, the Ministry of Health acknowledges, legionellosis is an uncommon disease and underdiagnosed: precisely, as is not usual, many health centers do not have a methodology to detect it.
Legionellosis has a general mortality between 5% and 10%, but the prognosis is influenced by many factors, such as the general clinical picture of the patient, the initial antimicrobial treatment he received and the environment in which he became infected. To the immunosuppressed patients the risk of complications is greater and is located between 5% and 40% if treated and up to 80% in untreated immunosuppressed.
Symptoms of infection with legionella
Legionellosis in pneumonic form, also called legionnaire’s diseaseit has an incubation period of between two and 10 days, and its main symptoms are:
- Loss of appetite
- General unrest
- muscle pain
- Mild initial cough
The severity of the disease can range from an initial cough, eventually with phlegm, to pneumonia that can have a quick fatal outcome.
The indicated treatment is with antibioticsbut it can take several weeks and even months to recover.