Legionnaire’s Disease Being Investigated in Passaic and Bergen Counties

Source: RLS Media

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is working with local health departments in investigating seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Passaic County and Bergen County.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Department recommends that individuals who live or work in these counties who become ill with pneumonia-like/respiratory symptoms, such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle aches, and headache visit their healthcare provider immediately to be evaluated,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

As it can take up to two weeks for symptoms to develop, NJDOH recommends that those who develop symptoms within two weeks of visiting these counties also seek medical attention.

It is important to note that symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to those of COVID-19. A laboratory test is required to determine if you are sick with Legionnaires’ disease or COVID-19.

People over the age of 50, especially those who smoke cigarettes, or those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease, or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease.

Due to the long incubation period for Legionnaires’ disease, individuals traveling frequently, and the fact that Legionella bacteria can naturally occur and be identified in many places, it may not be possible to determine the origin of the bacteria that infected people.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by Legionella bacteria. People can get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in aerosolized (tiny droplets) water containing Legionella bacteria. Aerosolized water can come from cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings), hot tubs, cooling misters, decorative fountains, and plumbing systems.

Home A/C units do not use water to cool, so these home units do not aerosolize water and are not a risk for Legionella growth. Less commonly, people can get sick when water containing Legionella is aspirated into the lungs while drinking (“goes down the wrong pipe”).

People at increased risk of aspiration include those with swallowing difficulties. NJDOH receives approximately 250-350 reports of Legionnaires’ disease each year. Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person. Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with antibiotics.

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