Legionnaires’ Disease

(Legionella pneumonia, or Legionellosis) is a severe form of pneumonia, a respiratory illness that causes the air sacs in the lungs to fill with water or pus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the disease affects about 5,000 Americans each year, with 10 percent of those cases resulting in death. The disease is caught by inhaling water droplets – in the form of mist or vapor – that contain the Legionella bacteria (or Legionella pneumophila). The bacteria are found primarily in human-made, warm-water environments: industrial cooling systems, air conditioners, whirlpool spas, and hot tubs, to name a few. The incubation period – the time between breathing in the bacteria and developing symptoms – is usually 2-10 days but can be as much as 16 days.

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If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, contact us.

If you or a family member have become seriously ill from Legionnaires’ disease, you might have reason to contact an attorney who specializes in such cases. Hiring experienced Legionnaires’ attorney Elliot Olsen, who understands the complexity of the disease, is essential to recovery.

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Legionnaires’ disease often begins with these symptoms:

Muscle aches
Loss of appetite

After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include: 

Shortness of breath
Chest pain while breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
Confusion and agitation
Nausea and vomiting
Severe gastrointestinal illness

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases of Legionnaires’ disease, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, and septic shock. All of these conditions are very dangerous and can be fatal. It is imperative to monitor conditions closely.

There are certain factors that elevate the risk of developing Legionella pneumonia.

People 50 or older: Men and women older than 50 are more susceptible to the bacteria.

Smoking: Current or former smokers are at an elevated risk for infection.

Weak Immune System: Those with weakened immune systems due to illness or injury are more vulnerable.

Lung Disease: Individuals with chronic lung disease are considered high risk.

In order to prove a Legionnaires' disease claim, several things are needed:

A confirmed diagnosis of Legionnaires'

A doctor needs to confirm that your or your loved one have Legionnaires’ disease (also called Legionnaires’ pneumonia or Legionella pneumonia). The doctor will take some blood and have it tested, and may also have a chest X-ray taken to determine the severity of the infection.

A discovery of Legionella bacteria in body fluid

An epidemiological professional can test blood or urine for Legionella antigens. Antigens are the body’s immune response to the presence of a foreign toxin or bacteria. A doctor may also test phlegm for Legionella bacteria.

A pinpointed source

After a doctor confirms the presence of Legionnaires’ disease, the next step is discovering the source of the contamination. Generally, Legionella affects more than one person in the same area and period, which constitutes an outbreak. However, being a confirmed as part of an outbreak is not necessary to file a lawsuit. Knowing you are part of a confirmed outbreak simply helps in providing answers and peace of mind.

An epidemiological and environmental investigation

A confirmed diagnosis should be reported to the state health department by the doctor or lab technician who made the diagnosis. An epidemiological investigation may reveal that the infected family member is part of an outbreak, or at the very least identify the source of the exposure. An environmental investigation is a sampling of the suspected source of the Legionella bacteria.

What then?

Speaking with Elliot Olsen – who has worked on numerous cases involving Legionnaires’ disease – early in the diagnosis can expedite the process. Elliot will know the proper steps to take, and he will be able to provide guidance for you and your loved ones, moving your family closer to answers and peace of mind.

pediatrician with patient
Examining Legionella bacteria
Rod-shaped Lactobacillus bacteria, Legionnaires' disease