Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia (lung inflammation usually caused by infection). Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacterium known as legionella. Most people get Legionnaires’ disease from inhaling the bacteria. People who smoke, are older than 50, or have a weakened immune system are at higher risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease. The legionella bacterium also causes Pontiac fever, a milder illness resembling the flu.
Symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, and confusion or other mental changes. Complications can be serious and life threatening including respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure. To diagnosis Legionnaires’ disease and the presence of legionella bacteria, your doctor may use a blood test, chest X-ray, sample of you lung tissue or a CT scan. Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics and in some cases may require hospitalization. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, talk with your doctor about the most current treatment options.