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Seven Cases of Legionnaire's Disease in New York

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07/08/2008 02:15 PM
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Seven Cases of Legionnaire's Disease in New York
[link to www.syracuse.com]

Central New york News
Seven cases of Legionnaires' disease in Onondaga County
by James T. Mulder
Tuesday July 08, 2008, 12:04 PM

Community General Hospital is working with state and county health departments to assess possible sources of Legionnaires' disease.

Syracuse, NY -- Seven people in Onondaga County have come down with Legionnnaires' disease over the past 10 days and public health officials suspect they may have contracted the potentially deadly respiratory infection at Community General Hospital.

All seven adults who got the disease were on the hospital campus before getting ill, according to Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Morrow. County and state health department officials, however, have not conclusively pinpointed the source of the disease, she said.

All the people who contracted Legionnaires' were hospitalized for treatment, Morrow said. Several have been discharged and others are still being treated, she said.

The county and state health departments are working together to investigate the outbreak.

Community General has been working with both departments to assess possible sources on its campus and has already implemented additional control measures, Morrow said.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by a bacterium, Legionella, that is found naturally in the environment. Although most people who are exposed to the bacterium do not become ill, it can lead to pneumonia, Morrow said.

Water sources most commonly are associated with Legionnaires' disease -- specifically cooling towers and evaporative condensers used for air conditioning and hot water systems.

The disease is transmitted through the air; people become infected by inhaling water droplets containing the bacterium. It is not spread person to person.

People at greatest risk for Legionnaires' disease are people over age 50, smokers, people with chronic lung disease and people whose immune systems are compromised.

Any individual experiencing symptoms should contact a health provider immediately, Morrow said. Typical symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, muscle aches and headache. These are often accompanied by a rapidly increasing fever that can rise to between 102 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit over a 24-hour period.

Individuals also may experience dry cough, abdominal pain and diarrhea, the health department said.

Left untreated, Legionnaires' can be fatal. "You need specific testing done to make this diagnosis," she said. "It's not difficult to diagnose if you know what you are looking for."

Legionnaires' usually develops two to 14 days after exposure. "We are worried that there may still be people in the community who have symptoms and don't know they need to see their doctor right away to see if they have this form of pneumonia," Morrow said.

Check back later for more updates and read more about this story in Wednesday's Post-Standard.