Monday, August 10, 2015

HEALTH - Legionnaires Outbreak

"What caused the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in NYC?" PBS NewsHour 8/6/2015


SUMMARY:  New York is facing the largest outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in its history; eight people have died from the respiratory illness since early July, and nearly 100 cases have been reported.  Hari Sreenivasan learns more from Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The disease is often characterized as a severe form of pneumonia.  And it appears that water cooling towers have been a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes it.  Legionnaires is rarely the focus of much public attention, but there were more 4,500 cases in the U.S. in 2013.

Let’s get some further information about the disease itself, the outbreak and the risks to people.

Dr. Anne Schuchat is the director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.  She joins me now from Atlanta.

So tell me, first of all, what does this do to the body?

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  Legionnaire’s disease is a form of pneumonia.  It can cause fever, cough, difficulty breathing and other complications.

It’s one of the more severe pneumonias.  And we think between 5 percent and 30 percent of people who develop Legionnaires’ disease can have fatal infections.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And how widespread is it?  That 4,500 number is probably not something people are familiar with.

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT:  Well, actually, we think there is under-reporting.

So, based on some studies that we have done, we think there are probably between 8,000 and 18,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year in the United States.  Many of them don’t get diagnosed specifically.  They’re just treated as pneumonia, and even those that do get diagnosed may or may not get reported to the public health authorities.

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