What is it?

Legionnaires Disease is a severe lung infection caused by Legionella bacteria and can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Legionella is a naturally occurring bacterium and is present in bodies of water and soil.

How do you get Legionnaires Disease?

Legionnaires Disease is not spread from person-to-person contact, nor is it airborne. People contract the disease by aspirating, or breathing in, water vapor infected with the bacteria. It can ONLY be contracted from the environment.

Learn About the Symptoms
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  • Legionnaires’ Disease or Legionellosis can cause a severe bacterial infection of the respiratory tract that has pneumonia like symptoms, and is potentially fatal.
  • There are over 40 known species of the Legionella bacteria.
  • The majority of Legionella infections are caused by the species Legionella pneumophila.
  • Legionella bacteria is most commonly found in water. Contraction of the disease most often happens through inhalation or aspiration of the bacteria-infested water into the lungs.
  • Biofilm is a common breeding ground for Legionella. A biofilm, which is prevalent in all water systems, is any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface.
  • In the past, methods of Legionella control have been saturating the water with chemicals, and ultra-high water temperatures. Neither method has been shown to penetrate biofilm or provide much, if any, residual disinfection.

Legionnaires Disease Symptoms

Legionnaires Disease is a form of Pneumonia. It can only be contracted by aspirating infected water vapor and can be fatal is left untreated.

Symptoms typically appear 2-10 days after exposure. Treatments for Legionnaires Disease use antibiotics to fight the symptoms and breathing assistance from a ventilator may be required.

The risk of death from Legionnaires Disease is higher for those who are infected while already in a hospital or for those with chronic diseases.

The Symptoms Of Legionnaires’ Disease Include:

Initial Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills and/or fever

Advanced Symptoms

(usually appear after 2-3 days)

  • Cough (with mucus or blood)
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, Diarrhea, or Vomiting
  • Confusion
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When to Seek Medical Attention

Please contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms or if you suspect you have been exposed to Legionella bacteria by aspirating infected water vapor. Certain people are at an elevated risk for contracting Legionnaires Disease, like smokers, people over 50 years of age, or those with weakened immune systems.

Read more about Legionella bacteria.

Copper-Silver Ionization Studies

INDIVIDUAL AND COMBINED EFFECTS OF COPPER AND SILVER IONS ON INACTIVATION OF LEGIONELLA PNEUMOPHILA

YU-SEN E. LIN1, RADISAV D. VIDIC 1, JANET E STOUT2, VICTOR L. YU2

1943 Benedum Hall, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA

2Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pa 15240, USA

Abstract – Copper-silver ionization is a new disinfection method that is being used to eradicate Legionella pneumophila from the hospital hot water recirculating systems. The objective of this study was to determine the susceptibility of L.pneumophila serogroup 1 to copper and silver ions alone and in combination. L. pneumophila serogroup 1 (L.p. sg- 1) was completely inactivated (6-log reduction) at copper concentrations of 1 mg/l within 2.5 h, whereas more than 24 h was required to achieve a similar reduction at the highest silver ion concentration tested (0.08 mg/l). Checkerboard method and Gard additive model prediction demonstrated that copper and silver ions in combination could result in additive or synergistic effect depending on the concentration of copper and silver ions. Under the experimental conditions used in this study, synergism of copper/silver ions in eradicating L.p.sg-1 was observed at higher concentration combinations of copper/silver ions (e.g. 0.4/0.04 mg/l) while only an additive effect was observed at lower concentrations combinations (e.g. 0.2/0.02 mg/l). This study suggested that both copper and silver ions are effective in inactivating L. pneumophila and the combined effect is greater than that seen with either ion alone. Copyright © 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Download Full Study: Individual and Combined Effects of Copper and Silver Ions

Experiences of the First 16 Hospitals Using Copper-Silver Ionization for Legionella Control: Implications for the Evaluation of Other Disinfection Modalities

Janet E. Stout, PhD; Victor L. Yu, MD

Vol. 24 No. 8 Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology

Stated in the ABSTRACT on the first page:

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: “Hospital-acquired legionnaires’ disease can be prevented by disinfection of hospital water systems. This study assessed the long-term efficacy of copper–silver ionization as a disinfection method in controlling Legionella in hospital water systems and reducing the incidence of hospital-acquired legionnaires’ disease. A standardized, evidence-based approach to assist hospitals with decision making concerning the possible purchase of a disinfection system is presented.

RESULTS: “All 16 hospitals reported cases of hospital-acquired legionnaires’ disease prior to installing the copper–silver ionization system.” No cases of hospital-acquired legionnaires’ disease have occurred in any hospital since 1995.

CONCLUSIONS: “This study represents the final step in a proposed 4-step evaluation process of disinfection systems that includes (1) demonstrated efficacy of Legionella eradication in vitro using laboratory assays, (2) anecdotal experiences in preventing legionnaires’ disease in individual hospitals, (3) controlled studies in individual hospitals, and (4) validation in confirmatory reports from multiple hospitals during a prolonged time (5 to 11 years in this study). Copper–silver ionization is now the only disinfection modality to have fulfilled all four evaluation criteria(Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2003;24:563-568).”

Stated on page 5 the last two paragraphs in the 2nd column:

“Advantages of copper–silver ionization are that it is more cost-effective than hyperchlorination, is easier to maintain, and does not corrode piping or plumbing fixtures, and in the event of mechanical failure, recontamination is delayed for weeks, allowing a safety buffer.33-35 In contrast, if a chlorinator fails, recontamination occurs rapidly.’

“The four evaluation criteria listed earlier have now been fulfilled for copper–silver ionization. We recommend that this process of evaluation be applied to other newer disinfection approaches such as those involving chlorine dioxide and monochloramine. It may be several years before sufficient controlled trials of these modalities are available for scientific scrutiny. This study documents the long-term efficacy of copper–silver ionization in reducing Legionella in hospital hot water distribution systems, as well as reducing or eliminating cases of hospital-acquired legionnaires disease.”

Download Full Study: Experiences of the First 16 Hospitals

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