The Division of Public Health (DPH) issued the following media release regarding Legionnaires' disease on Tuesday, August 26, 2003.
Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) reports 22 cases of Legionnaires disease this year. An average of 14 cases per year of Legionnaires' disease were reported to DPH from 1995-2002. No common source has been found among the cases. Three people are hospitalized and there have been two deaths. The remaining patients recovered and were discharged from the hospital.
Thirteen of the patients are from New Castle County, four are Sussex County residents, one is from Kent County and four are out-of-state residents who were hospitalized in Delaware. Ages range from 35 to 81 years. Those employed are engaged in a variety of occupations. All but three are known to have risk factors for the disease. (While Legionnaires' disease can affect individuals in any age group, middle-aged and older people are at highest risk, particularly if they smoke cigarettes or have chronic lung disease. Also at increased risk are those whose immune systems are suppressed by medications or by diseases such as cancer, kidney failure requiring dialysis, diabetes or AIDS.)
The increase in Legionnaires disease in Delaware is part of a regional increase. As of August 17, 304 cases have been reported in the South Atlantic states (Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida) compared to 117 cases reported this time last year. To date, no common sources of infection have been reported by these states.
DPH is investigating all cases of Legionnaires' disease and working with Delaware hospitals and physicians to monitor the occurrence of the disease. DPH has cooperated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to gather additional information to help identify reasons for the increase in the disease among south-Atlantic states, including Delaware.
Legionnaires' disease is a form of pneumonia caused by bacteria that is not transmitted from person to person and usually occurs in isolated incidents. Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include fever, chills, cough, body aches, headache, fatigue, lack of appetite and occasionally diarrhea. The disease can be treated with antibiotics. Approximately 5-15 percent of cases are fatal. Illness occurs when individuals inhale mists from an infected water source, such as cooling towers and evaporative condensers of large air conditioning systems, whirlpool spas and showers. People may be exposed to these mists in homes, workplaces, hospitals or public places. There is no evidence of people becoming infected from auto air conditioners or household window air conditioning units.
For information, call DPH at 888-295-5156 or go to http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/legionellosis_g.htm