Legionnaires Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection caused by legionella bacteria, which is caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water. It is not contagious and can’t be spread directly from person to person.

Legionella bacteria is commonly found in water sources such as rivers and lakes. The bacteria can rapidly multiply if they find their way into artificial water supply systems such as air conditioning systems.

Large buildings, such as hotels, hospitals, museums and office blocks, are more vulnerable to legionella contamination because they have larger, more complex water supply systems in which the bacteria can quickly spread.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease

Initial symptoms of the disease include a high fever, muscle pain and chills. Once bacteria infect your lungs, you could also develop a persistent cough, chest pains and breathing difficulties. If you get any of these initial symptoms, you should see your GP, as they are likely to mean you have an infection of some kind.

If you have serious problems like chest pains and breathing difficulties, seek urgent medical attention.

Treating Legionnaires' Disease

Legionnaires' disease is treated with a course of antibiotics either taken orally, such as a pill, or through a continuous drip into a vein in your arm. The length of time you need antibiotic treatment for will depend on the severity of the condition. Treatment usually lasts around a week, but may continue for up to three weeks.

As Legionnaires' disease can be particularly serious in people with pre-existing health conditions, you may be admitted to hospital for a few weeks so your health can be monitored.