What are the Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease?

Legionnaires disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila. This harmful bacterium is found in both freshwater environments and indoor water systems such as air conditioners, decorative fountains, swimming pools, hot tubs, and home plumbing systems.

It is common for the bacteria to be found in larger buildings with complex water systems because the pathogens are given the opportunity to multiply and spread quickly. Those who contract the bacteria do so by inhaling microscopic water droplets that contain the harmful pathogens.

Individuals who develop Legionnaires disease can experience a myriad of health problems that are often life-threatening. Left untreated, this disease can lead to acute kidney failure, respiratory failure, and septic shock. Those with compromised immunity are even more susceptible to the potentially fatal complications of Legionnaires disease. Smoking, old age, and chronic lung disease are also known risk factors in developing an infection.  Legionnaires disease can often produce the following signs and symptoms and it's important for individuals who are suffering from these symptoms to seek medical attention immediately.

1. Body Aches

One of the earliest signs of Legionnaires disease is muscle pain and body discomfort. It is also common for individuals to experience severe headaches when the infection spreads. Those in the earlier stages of the disease often begin to notice that their muscles are feeling weak and achy for no reason, as if they have just run a marathon. This symptom can be gradual or may occur suddenly and usually shows up about two to 10 days after exposure to the harmful bacterium.

2. Fever and Chills

Legionnaires disease can bring on a fever that is 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This fever can also be accompanied by chills. The high temperature is caused by the body's response to pathogen invasions and infection. As the body tries to fight the infection, an individual's core temperature rises. It is important to seek prompt medical treatment in the event of a high fever as untreated fevers can be very dangerous and may lead to seizures, brain damage, and even death.

3. Cough

Pneumonia causes lung inflammation and one of the hallmark signs of Legionnaires disease is persistent hacking and chest discomfort. As Legionnaires disease progresses, most individuals will develop a chronic cough. It's also common for mucus or blood to be expelled from the throat during coughing episodes. Shortness of breath and wheezing may also be a symptom of Legionnaires disease. This symptom typically shows up about three days after contact with the bacteria.

4. Gastrointestinal Discomfort

 Legionnaires disease affects more than just the lungs. Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may also be symptoms of this disease. Abdominal pain and loss of appetite can also occur. It is important to stay hydrated and rested during severe episodes of vomiting and diarrhea as fluid loss can harm the body in multiple ways. Always see a doctor to address severe flu-like symptoms and to avoid further complications.

5. Mental Changes or Confusion

Individuals suffering from Legionnaires disease may also notice mental confusion and behavioral changes. A person with the disease may feel like his brain is foggy or that he suddenly can't think straight. Aggression, anger, sadness, and anxiousness can also be symptoms of the condition. It is always a good idea to visit a doctor when sudden mental or behavioral changes appear as this can be a sign of a multitude of illnesses.

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