Legionnaires’ Disease Update: Investigation Uncovers More Cases

For immediate release:
August 5, 2002

Contact: Linda Dorey
Vermont Department of Health

BURLINGTON—The Vermont Health Department’s ongoing investigation of a case of Legionnaires’ disease in Washington County has uncovered two additional confirmed cases and four possible cases.

It is unknown where these individuals acquired the disease. Vermont health officials are continuing to interview and test individuals with symptoms and to review medical records.

Legionnaires’ disease is not passed from person to person. People get it by inhaling mists that contain the bacterium that causes the disease, Legionella pneumophila.

Nationally, outbreaks of this disease have been related to cooling towers, evaporative condensers, whirlpool spas, showers, fountains and ultrasonic mist machines.

As the investigation continues, public health measures to remediate potential sources of the bacteria are also taking place. These include raising the hot water temperature at the Dale facility and the Vermont State Hospital, and disinfecting the cooling towers at the Waterbury office complex.

In Vermont since 1994, there have been 56 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease (not including these three most recently confirmed cases). Eleven of those individuals died.

Most people who are exposed to Legionella do not get sick or may develop a very mild illness. The illness most often affects middle-aged and older persons, particularly those who smoke cigarettes or have chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions.

“While public health measures are being put into place, it is still important for people who are experiencing these symptoms—fever, chills, severe muscle aches, cough, difficulty breathing—to contact their physician, particularly if they live or work in the Waterbury area,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Jan K. Carney.

Early treatment can prevent the most severe consequences of the disease, Carney said.

For more information on Legionnaires’ disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website—www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/legionellosis_g.htm