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Legionnaires' Disease


Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria. People usually contract Legionnaires’ by inhaling mist or vapor from water containing bacteria. The bacteria was named Legionella Pneumophila after the 1976 outbreak at the American Legion Convention in Philadelphia which resulted in 221 cases of pneumonia – 34 of which were fatal.

Legionnaires’ disease continues to occur, generally from the mist or vapor from air conditioning units, ventilation systems, showers, hot tubs, humidifiers and icemakers in commercial or industrial systems. Recent outbreaks have been found in prisons, hotels, cruise ships, senior living facilities, fitness centers, and community pools.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Muscle pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The majority of people develop pneumonia but a lesser form of the disease is called Pontiac Fever. People are usually treated with antibiotics once Legionnaires’ is identified. The disease is diagnosed by chest x-rays and laboratory tests. While most people recover with the help of antibiotics, Legionnaires’ is a life-threatening disease. People most prone to Legionnaires’ disease:

  • Are smokers
  • Have chronic lung disease
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Are over the age of 50

The most effective way to prevent an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease is through maintenance of water systems and ventilation systems. Outbreaks have given rise to lawsuits against building or hotel owners and operators who have put people at risk by failing to regularly or properly maintain these systems. If you or a family member has suffered a loss or severe injury as the result of Legionnaires’ disease, you may want to talk to an attorney to understand your options in pursuing a lawsuit. You can email Brett H. Oppenheimer, attorney, at or fill out a contact form on this website to set up a free consultation.

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