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Fast Facts

  • Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, collectively known as legionellosis.
  • The bacterium was named after an outbreak in 1976, when many people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion suffered from this disease.
  • An estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease each year in the U.S.
  • Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in warm water.
  • Legionella bacteria are not transmitted from person to person.
  • People get Legionnaires' disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) that has been contaminated with Legionella bacteria.
  • Keeping Legionella bacteria out of water is the key to preventing infection.
  • Most people with Legionnaires' disease will have pneumonia (lung infection) since the Legionella bacteria grow and thrive in the lungs.

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