What do The Playboy Mansion, Aria Resort and Casino, and the water faucets at Johns Hopkins hospital have in common? They all have had high levels of the bacteria that cause Legionnaires disease (Legionella bacteria).
Legionnaire’s disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by a specific bacteria found in the water supply of large institutions such as hospitals, cruise ships, mansions, or hotels. Hospitals will routinely test their water supplies for this bacteria.
Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease:
Legionnaires disease develops 2-14 days after exposure to legionella bacteria – and typically starts with a combination of headache, muscle pain, chills, and a temperature that can be 104 degrees or higher. The second or third day a cough with blood, some shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of appetite, confusion, and even nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Where does the disease come from?
Most come from water systems in large buildings, ships, or complexes. Hot tubs, fountains, cooling towers for air conditioning, swimming pools, and even complex faucets (see my prevous report about the fancy faucets at Johns Hopkins).
Who is at risk:
Not everyone who is exposed to the bacteria become ill. But those who are over 65, or who are infants are at risk. Other people who are at high risk include those who have compromised immune systems (people who have had transplants and are taking medicine to prevent rejection, people who are on chemotherapy for cancer, people who have HIV or AIDS, people who have severe arthritis and take steroids). In addition people who have lung disease, such as COPD or chronic emphysema. In addition people who smoke.
This is why it is an issue in hospitals are prone to infection, as germs easily spread.
How bad can Legionnaires get?
People can end up on the ventilator, and even develop septic shock, and have kidney failure. Since a number of other hospital acquired infections can cause this, it is sometimes more difficult to diagnose this in a hospital setting.
At the Playboy Mansion the disease was found to come from the hot tub.
At the Aria it was found in several guest rooms.
At Johns Hopkins medical center it was found in the automatic faucets (the kind that turn on and off without touching them.
Treatment is with antibiotics, as well as whatever supportive care is needed. Legionnaire’s disease can be life-threatening – especially if it is contracted in the hospital (where half those diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease die).
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.