Legionnaires Disease Outbreak Hits New England

New England has been struck by nearly twice the normal number of cases of Legionnaires disease this year, and health officials are struggling to determine why. 

Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine have seen cases almost double, but large increases have also been noted in New York and Pennsylvania. There has been no common thread or cause linked to the Legionnaire’s disease cases.

Massachusetts has recorded 211 cases so far this year, compared to 118 total in 2010. Connecticut has reported 72 cases, but only had 47 in 2010. New York has reported 526 cases so far this year, up significantly from the 379 it reported last year. Pennsylvania has had 450 cases thus far, but only had 299 in 2010.

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A Legionnaire’s disease advisory was issued by Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, telling health care officials to look for and report any cases. To date, there have been 18 cases of Legionnaire’s disease this year in Maine, compared with 11 last year.

According to the warning notice, 12 of the year’s 18 cases so far were reported in the last three months, but there has been no common exposure identified by health regulators.

Legionnaire’s disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection that hospitalizes between 8,000 and 18,000 people each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It produces symptoms similar to those of pneumonia, which can include high fever, chills, muscle aches and cough. The disease is fatal in 5% to 30% of cases.

Legionalla bacteria may be found in warm water, and can be present in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks and large plumbing or air conditioning systems. It is contracted by breathing in mist or vapor contaminated with the bacteria, but cannot be transmitted from one person to another.


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