Legionella

Legionella are bacteria that can trigger a lung infection (Legionnaires’ disease) or a mild flu-like illness (Pontiac fever).

Overview

Legionella are bacteria that can trigger a lung infection (Legionnaires’ disease) or a mild flu-like illness (Pontiac fever). Coughing and high fever are typical, while flu symptoms are more prominent for Pontiac fever. Good hygiene measures for water systems (e.g. air-conditioning units) can prevent an infection.

Symptoms

In most cases of infection there are no symptoms. Possible symptoms include:

Legionnaires’ disease

Pontiac fever

Complications

  • Disorientation
  • Disturbance of liver, heart and kidney function
  • Circulatory collapse (owing to blood poisoning)
  • Rarely, multiple organ failure

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Legionella bacteria
    • Transmitted by water droplets or steam (aerosol)
      • Jacuzzis
      • Water pipes
      • Air-conditioning units
      • Humidifiers
      • Thermal spas

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Urine test (search for bacteria)
  • Sputum test (for bacteria)
  • X-ray of chest cavity
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
Possible therapies
  • Antibiotics (for lung infection)
  • Pontiac fever usually heals by itself within a week

What can I do myself?

  • Heat boilers to more than 60° once a day (kills bacteria)
  • Constantly keep temperature of cold-water systems below 20°
  • Flush taps and shower heads with hot and cold water after a longer absence
    o Make sure there is no steam

When to see a doctor?

Further information

Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)
www.bag.admin.ch

Synonyms

Legionella

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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