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A third case of Legionnaires’ disease since August has been confirmed at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, TX, according to multiple news reports.
The sickened employee is the third civilian worker to contract the serious respiratory illness in Building #15, an administrative building and clinic near the main BAMC hospital.
Two original cases were reported in August and had been defined as a “cluster” due to the dates of onset of the illness, according to the Emerging and Acute Infection Disease Guidelines. The confirmation of a third case associated with the same facility within one year changes the classification to an “outbreak.”
The sickened employee is hospitalized. No additional information was made available due to patient confidentiality laws.
Building #15’s 200-plus workers and patients are being moved out for the second time since August. The building is being investigated to try and determine if it is the source of Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease.
Brooke Army Medical Center is the U.S. Army’s largest and busiest medical center, and the Army’s only military Level I trauma center. BAMC also operates as the Department of Defense’s only burn treatment facility.
BAMC said its beneficiaries or military personnel who are suffering upper-respiratory or flu-like symptoms should contact their medical provider either at Fort Sam Houston or off-post clinics.
Legionnaires’ disease 101
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to the Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms. Ten percent of people infected will die from the infection.
When Legionnaires’ disease first presents, it looks like other forms of pneumonia or even flu. Early symptoms can include:
- fever, which can be 104 or higher
- loss of appetite
- muscle aches.
After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:
- chest pain when breathing, called pleuritic chest pain (due to inflamed lungs)
- confusion and agitation
- a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
- diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
- nausea and vomiting
- shortness of breath.
The incubation period is usually 2 to 10 days but can be as much as 16 days.