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Health department warns of increase in Legionnaires' disease in Michigan

black and white bacteria under microscope
Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is warning about an increase of Legionellosis this summer. Leginellosis refers to either Legionnaires' disease or Pontiac fever caused by legionnella bacteria.

Warm, stagnate, and not properly disinfected bodies of water support the growth of the bacteria.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reports 140 cases in Michigan this year alone. Lynn Sutfin is with the department. She says it's a respiratory illness, so it's smart to avoid susceptible waters. The legionnella bacteria is transmitted through mists or vapors.

"It's a respiratory infection that's caused by the bacteria. Legionnaires' disease is the infection with the symptoms that includes fever, cough, and pneumonia. There's a milder form of leginellosis which is Pontiac fever, and that's going to be more influenza-like illness without the pneumonia, and that will resolve on its own," Sutfin says.

The department says the bacteria that causes the disease can be found in fresh water, whirlpool spas, and especially stagnant water.

"If you are starting to get ill and you realize perhaps that you've been in one of those areas that might fall into one of those categories it's definitely something to have a conversation about with your healthcare provider. Obviously if you're starting to get sick, particularity pneumonia like, you should go see a healthcare provider anyway," Sutfin says.

The department says symptoms include fever, cough, and pneumonia. The infection does not spread person to person. People over 50 years old or who have lung diseases are at higher risk of getting infected. The department says go to a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms.

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