Legionella

Legionella are bacteria that can trigger a lung infection (Legionnaires’ disease) or a mild flu-like illness (Pontiac fever).

Overview

Legionella are bacteria that can trigger a lung infection (Legionnaires’ disease) or a mild flu-like illness (Pontiac fever). Coughing and high fever are typical, while flu symptoms are more prominent for Pontiac fever. Good hygiene measures for water systems (e.g. air-conditioning units) can prevent an infection.

Symptoms

In most cases of infection there are no symptoms. Possible symptoms include:

Legionnaires’ disease

Pontiac fever

Complications

  • Disorientation
  • Disturbance of liver, heart and kidney function
  • Circulatory collapse (owing to blood poisoning)
  • Rarely, multiple organ failure

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Legionella bacteria
    • Transmitted by water droplets or steam (aerosol)
      • Jacuzzis
      • Water pipes
      • Air-conditioning units
      • Humidifiers
      • Thermal spas

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Urine test (search for bacteria)
  • Sputum test (for bacteria)
  • X-ray of chest cavity
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
Possible therapies
  • Antibiotics (for lung infection)
  • Pontiac fever usually heals by itself within a week

What can I do myself?

  • Heat boilers to more than 60° once a day (kills bacteria)
  • Constantly keep temperature of cold-water systems below 20°
  • Flush taps and shower heads with hot and cold water after a longer absence
    o Make sure there is no steam

When to see a doctor?

Further information

Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)
www.bag.admin.ch

Synonyms

Legionella

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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