How To Prevent And Treat Legionnaires' Disease

December 11, 2023

Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia that develops in an individual when they inhale the Legionella bacteria into their lungs. Legionnaires' disease is also commonly referred to as Pontiac disease. The Legionella bacteria can multiply out of control in lakes, rivers, and other freshwater sources where the temperature sits between 68 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Legionnaires' disease develops when small droplets of this contaminated source of water enter an individual's lungs.

Symptoms of Legionnaires'; disease include a fever up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, a cough, headaches, agitation, chills, muscle aches, confusion, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and chest pain. The diagnosis of Legionnaires' disease is made with the use of a urine test, blood tests, lumbar puncture, and diagnostic imaging scans.

Proper Maintenance Of Water Systems

No vaccines are currently available to prevent the development of Legionnaires' disease, so the prevention of Legionnaires' disease focuses on targeting the most common sources of the infection-causing bacteria. The most common sources include contaminated air conditioning systems, water cooling systems, hot tubs, spas, spray systems, fire extinguishers, misting machines, decorative fountains, functional fountains, retention ponds, evaporative condensers, water softening systems, hot water systems, humidifiers, and cold water systems.

Other sources of Legionnaires' disease are different types of respiratory equipment that use water in their mechanism, including ventilators and nebulizers. Water systems of any sort should be chemically and mechanically cleaned, sanitized, and filtered free of any rust, sludge, slime, limescale, algae, amoebae, biofilm, other bacteria, corrosion products, and any other organic matter. Legionella bacteria tend to grow rapidly in water systems that stay stagnant for too long and maintain a temperature of between 68 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The use of broad-spectrum biocides to clean out water systems can help with controlling slime, algae, and other microorganisms that can help Legionella bacteria thrive.

Quit Smoking

An individual can help prevent Legionnaires' disease by quitting smoking tobacco and cannabis. The Legionella bacteria is promoted and supported when it enters an individual's lungs that have already been damaged by some other means. Tobacco smoking is the top cause of lung disease, lung cancer, and damage to lung tissues in the general population. The damages in the lungs that incur due to a habit of smoking tobacco allows the bacteria to enter deeper tissues than it otherwise would be unable to penetrate.

Once the alveoli or air sacs in the lung are penetrated by bacteria, it can enter into the individual's bloodstream and spread to other vulnerable parts of their body. The morbidity rate among individuals known to be smokers who die of Legionnaires' disease is higher than it is for those who are not habitual smokers. Alterations in the way the immune system defends the mucous membranes, airways, and lung tissues are known to be a major contributing factor to the increased vulnerability of smokers to lung infections.

Course Of Antibiotics

A course of antibiotics may be needed for a Legionnaires' disease patient as part of their treatment process. Antibiotics are a type of medication utilized to stop bacteria from growing in the body and eliminate bacteria from the body. When treating Legionnaires' disease, it is imperative that after any urgent and life-threatening symptoms have been mediated to eliminate the infection-causing bacteria from the patient's body. Several different antibiotics have shown to be effective at the elimination of the Legionella bacteria.

Macrolide antibiotics like azithromycin and quinolone antibiotics like ciprofloxacin, moxifloxacin, trovafloxacin, levofloxacin, and gemifloxacin are used in the treatment of Legionnaires' disease most often. In rare cases where these antibiotics are ineffective at the elimination of the Legionella bacteria, antibiotics such as minocycline, tetracycline, trimethoprim, and doxycycline may be utilized. When oral antibiotics in the form of pills are not able to be ingested, intravenous antibiotics or injections may be used.

Intravenous Fluids

An individual who has contracted Legionnaires' disease may need to have intravenous fluids as part of their treatment plan. After taking the steps of stabilizing the patient, managing any life-threatening symptoms, and attempting to eliminate the bacteria from the body, supportive treatment should be provided to help the patient recover quickly. Individuals who have a severe form of Legionnaires' disease may become dehydrated due to a gross loss of appetite, vomiting, and or diarrhea caused by their infection.

Dehydration occurs when more water is being lost from the body than the amount the patient is consuming. Fluids are required for an individual to maintain proper blood flow, blood volume, and blood consistency. All vital processes in the body require a sufficient balance of fluids. When more water is being lost than what is being taken in, the individual becomes dehydrated. A dehydrated individual can suffer life-threatening complications from the interruption of vital processes. Intravenous fluids are important to help rehydrate an affected individual.

Support For The Lungs

An individual who is hospitalized for a severe Legionnaires' disease may need support for the lungs as part of their treatment plan. Legionnaires' disease is a form of pneumonia where the small air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) accumulate fluid and pus. The alveoli facilitate the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the capillaries. When the alveoli in the lungs become filled with pus or other fluids, the air is unable to reach the capillaries, and oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange does not take place. When Legionnaires' disease causes this type of obstruction in many of the alveoli in the lungs, the ability of the organ to perform its function becomes impaired.

When the lung function is impaired, an individual who is ill will take longer to recover than someone who has fully functional lungs. Lung support in a hospital setting for a Legionnaires' disease patient usually consists of supplemental oxygen, which is air with a higher oxygen concentration than the air in the atmosphere. This higher oxygen concentration helps increase the function of the lungs while the patient is fighting off the Legionella bacteria.

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