Legionella bacteria are found mainly in water, but also in soil. They grow best in warmer temperatures and prefer to live in a slime layer on the inside of pipes in warm waterlines, reservoirs or tanks that are not used often or stagnant. To get Legionnaires’ disease:
- You must inhale small droplets of water that contain Legionella bacteria
- Legionella bacteria must be present in large numbers in the water
- You usually have personal health risk factors such as a weakened immune system
Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious.
Legionella bacteria might be in:
- Shower heads
- Decorative fountains
- Filtered water
- Fish tanks
- Hot tubs
- Hot water tanks
- Spray bottles
- Steam tables
- Therapy tubs
- Cooling towers
If Legionella bacteria are in your water system at home, the risk of getting Legionnaires’ disease is extremely low if you do not have another serious illness. Legionnaires’ disease occurs more often in people age 50 or older and people with weakened immune systems such as organ transplant patients and people with lung conditions, cancer, diabetes and smokers.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms usually start 2 to 14 days after you are exposed to Legionella bacteria and include:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pains
- Loss of appetite
The initial symptoms for Pontiac Fever, another illness caused by Legionella bacteria, are similar; however, people recover from Pontiac Fever within two to five days without treatment.