Legionnaires’ Disease

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease (or Legionellosis) is a type of pneumonia. It is caused by bacteria (Legionella) that grow in warm water.

Is the disease contagious?

No. Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person. People only get sick by breathing in water vapor containing the bacteria. People who are sick with Legionnaires’ disease cannot make others sick.

Who is at risk?

Groups at high risk include people who are aged 50 or older (especially those who are cigarette smokers), people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs).

What are the symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease?

Symptoms are like the flu and can include fever, chills, muscle aches and cough. Some people may also have headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion or diarrhea.

If you have these symptoms, seek medical attention right away, especially if you have a medical condition that affects your breathing, like emphysema, or if you are a smoker. Tell your health care provider you are concerned about Legionnaires’ disease. Your provider may need to do tests to find out if you are sick with Legionnaires’ disease or a different infection.

What is the treatment for Legionnaires’ disease?

The disease is treated with antibiotics. Most people get better with early treatment, although they may need to be hospitalized. Some people may get very sick or even die from complications of the disease. That’s why it is important to get medical help right away if you develop symptoms.

Cooling Towers and Legionnaires’ Disease

During the summer of 2015, a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak occurred in the South Bronx. Several cooling towers in the affected areas tested positive for Legionella. In response to this outbreak, building owners are now required to register cooling towers, evaporative condensers, and fluid containers with the Department of Buildings.

If you are a resident living in a building with a cooling tower, you can ask your building management to register online. Learn more about Maintaining Cooling Towers.

Additional Resources