Legionnaires' Disease (Legionellosis)

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Due to recent cases of Legionnaires Disease in the Bronx, the Albany County Department of Health would like to provide the following information:

Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person

  • Legionella is the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, which is a severe form of pneumonia
  • Infection results from inhaling water droplets that are contaminated with this bacteria
  • In most individuals, this exposure does not result in serious disease
  • Legionella infection can also cause a mild flu like illness called Pontiac Fever, which usually clears on its own
  • Older adults, smokers, and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease, which can be treated with antibiotics.
  • More information on disease caused by Legionella can be found on the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website or the NYS Dept of Health website.

The vast majority of Legionella cases are not linked to an identifiable source. We are not seeing any evidence of a rise of cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Albany County. The outbreak in the Bronx has been linked to Water Cooling Towers located in the area of the outbreak.

  • Legionella bacteria can multiply in water systems including cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains
  • Most outbreaks have occurred in large buildings, as more complex systems may allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily. They do not seem to grow in car or window air conditioners
  • Proper maintenance of large water systems can inhibit or prevent the colonization of legionella bacteria
  • Information for building owners on proper maintenance of cooling towers to prevent the spread of Legionella can be found in a PDF document by the Cooling Technology Institute available online, "Guideline: Best Practices for Control of Legionella", and the website of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

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