Legionnaires’ Disease Update: Count Remains at Nine

For immediate release:
August 8, 2002

Contact: Linda Dorey
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON—As of 3 p.m. Thursday, health officials have confirmed no new cases of Legionnaires’ disease. The total remains at nine cases. Several other cases are under investigation.

Of the nine confirmed cases, three remain hospitalized. The others have all been discharged.

“We are continuing to evaluate and test individuals with symptoms that may be consistent with the disease,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Jan K. Carney. “At this point, all of the patients that we investigating became ill during the last week in July.”

Carney said that there can be up to 10 days between when a person is exposed and when symptoms appear, so there are likely to be additional cases confirmed into next week.

At least 25 people who had symptoms have been tested and found to be negative for the disease.

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.

Public health measures to remediate potential sources of the bacteria are also taking place. Cooling towers at the Waterbury state office complex have been cleaned and disinfected.

In addition, health officials are advising local building owners that may have cooling towers to inspect and disinfect these structures.

In Vermont, since 1994, there have been 56 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease (not including these nine 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, people who are experiencing these symptoms—fever, chills, severe muscle aches, cough, difficulty breathing—should contact their physician for evaluation, particularly if they live or work in the Waterbury area,” said 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