Cases of Legionnaire’s disease are on the rise in the United States and health officials are becoming increasingly worried, according to a report by HuffPost.
Since 2000, cases of the waterborne bacterial disease have risen steadily. So far this year, 6,238 cases have been reported nationwide — a more than 13 percent increase since this time last year.
People contract Legionnaire’s disease when they breathe in water droplets laden with Legionella pneumophilia bacteria.
“A person acquires Legionnaire’s disease from mist,” Julien Martinez, assistant press secretary at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told HuffPost in October. “Most cases of Legionnaire’s disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, to water tanks and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.”
The disease can cause severe respiratory symptoms and kills about 10 percent of its victims. Most people, however, are successfully treated with antibiotics.
Experts explain the increase in Legionnaire’s cases by citing a number of contributing factors. The two at the top of the list are the aging U.S. population, which is more susceptible to the disease, and deteriorating infrastructure.
In addition, heightened awareness of the disease and better detection contribute to the increase in reported cases, according to Dr. Chris Edens, an epidemiologist on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Legionella team, who spoke to HuffPost.
Another potential driver of the rise in Legionnaire’s disease is a warmer climate, which leads to increased use of cooling towers, Edens said.