Legionnaires’ Disease what you need to know

Legionnaires’ Disease: What You Need to Know

Legionnaires': lung infection from inhaling water mist.

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious, potentially fatal form of pneumonia, and while it’s relatively uncommon, it’s essential to be aware of its causes, symptoms, and risk factors. This article aims to shed light on Legionnaires’ disease, outlining preventive measures and highlighting the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. We will also highlight how you can start a medical negligence claim.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella. These bacteria occur naturally in freshwater environments like lakes and rivers but can become a health concern when they find their way into artificial water systems. Outbreaks are often linked with complex water supplies such as those found in hotels, hospitals, or large buildings using cooling towers and evaporative condensers.

The disease primarily spreads through the inhalation of tiny water droplets containing the Legionella bacteria. These droplets can come from sources like showerheads, taps (faucets), hot tubs, ornamental fountains, or air-conditioning systems.

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Symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires‘ disease symptoms closely resemble those of other types of pneumonia. The initial symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after exposure. These early signs may include a high fever (often above 38C/100.4F), a persistent cough, muscle aches, and headaches. Shortness of breath might also be experienced.

As the infection progresses, further symptoms can develop, making it essential to watch out for chest pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, and even confusion or delirium. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned here, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention, especially if you fall into a high-risk group for Legionnaires’ disease.

Pontiac Fever

It’s important to note that the Legionella bacteria can also cause a milder illness named Pontiac fever. Symptoms of Pontiac fever are primarily flu-like, including fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches, but it does not lead to pneumonia.

Who is at Risk?

While anyone can contract Legionnaires’ disease, certain factors increase the risk of contracting the illness and experiencing severe complications. People at higher risk include:

  • Individuals over 50 years of age
  • Current or former smokers
  • Those with chronic lung diseases (e.g., COPD, emphysema)
  • People with weakened immune systems (e.g., due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or underlying medical conditions)
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, or liver failure.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment of Legionnaires’ disease are crucial for a positive outcome. If you experience pneumonia-like symptoms, especially after potential exposure to contaminated water sources, seek medical attention immediately. Be sure to inform your doctor if you have travelled recently, used a hot tub, or stayed in a hospital overnight within the past two weeks.

Diagnosis usually involves the following:

  • Chest X-ray to look for signs of pneumonia
  • Urine test to detect the presence of Legionella antigens
  • Sputum culture (testing a sample of mucus) to identify the bacteria

Legionnaires’ disease requires antibiotic treatment. The sooner the antibiotics are started, the higher the likelihood of a full recovery. In severe cases, patients may require hospitalization for supportive care, including oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids.

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Prevention of Legionnaires’ Disease

Prevention is the best defence against Legionnaires’ disease. Building owners and managers have a legal responsibility to understand the risks associated with Legionella and implement control measures. Key preventative steps include:

Maintaining water systems:

Proper cleaning, disinfection, and temperature control of water systems (especially in large buildings) are essential to prevent Legionella growth.

Minimizing water stagnation:

Water that sits unused for too long can create favourable conditions for bacterial growth.

Regular risk assessments:

Conducting risk assessments for water systems helps identify potential hazards and guide control measures.

Cooling tower maintenance:

Regular cleaning and maintenance of cooling towers help prevent the transmission of Legionella bacteria.

Individuals, especially those in high-risk groups, can also take precautions:

  • Be cautious with hot tubs: Ensure hot tubs are cleaned and disinfected regularly, especially if you are at a higher risk for Legionnaires’ disease.
  • Clean showerheads and taps: Descaling and cleaning showerheads and taps reduces the build-up, where bacteria could thrive.
  • Avoid aspiration while drinking: People with swallowing problems should take extra care to limit the risk of water going into the lungs.

Making a Medical Negligence Claim with National Claims

At National Claims, we understand that medical errors can have devastating and long-lasting consequences. If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to misdiagnosis, surgical errors, delayed treatment, or any other form of medical negligence, our team is here to help. We will connect you with a solicitor from our panel who will be able to assess your case.

Free Consultation

Let’s start with a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case. We’ll listen carefully to your experience and assess the circumstances surrounding the suspected negligence. This initial consultation will help us advise you on the strength of your potential claim.

*No Win, No Fee

National Claims believes that everyone should have access to justice, regardless of financial circumstances. That’s why we operate on a “No Win, No Fee” basis. You won’t pay any upfront legal fees, and our fees will only be due if your claim is successful. This means you can pursue your case without undue financial stress.

*Customers pay up to 25% (incl. VAT) of the amount recovered towards solicitor costs and if you cancel outside your cooling off period, you may be charged a fee.


Legionnaires’ disease, while a serious illness, is largely preventable with proper water system management and precautions. Understanding the causes, symptoms, risks, and preventative measures can help individuals and businesses minimize their risk and promote public health. Early recognition and treatment are critical for ensuring a positive outcome.

Contact us today to speak to one of our claims agents who will be able to help you get started on your claim.

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