ATLANTA (AP) — Earlier on Thursday, U.S. health officials voiced a concern that the last decade has witnessed three times the number of Legionnaires disease cases; however, more effective treatments have reduced fatality rates.
Most often, the elderly are struck with Legionnaires leading to fatal pneumonia. Mist or vapor from unhygienic water or air conditioning systems causes the germ spread.
Legionnaires was first identified in 1976. Compared to only 1,110 cases in 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 3,522 cases in 2009. CDC officials attribute the rise in numbers to the ageing population.
Compared to 20% fatalities in the 1980s and 1990s, Legionnaires is uncommon disease that consumed only around 8% of its victims in the last decade. Regardless of the decreased numbers, hundreds of Americans succumb to the disease each year, and experts estimate that it causes sickness and hospitalization of thousands of people annually whose cases are not reported.
Study co-author and a CDC epidemiologist, Dr. Lee Hampton, said that the rise in the number of cases is troublesome. “We need to minimize the risk of people dying from this,” he said.
The disease derives its name from an epidemic that struck the Philadelphia convention of the American Legion in 1976 consuming 34 people and sickening over 200 people.
The epidemic caused a huge outcry and received extensive media coverage. After a few months, health officials pinpointed the cause to be a bacterial one wherein the germ had spread through the hotel’s air-conditioning system at the convention.
Most often, the drugs used to treat pneumonia are used as the first line treatment against Legionnaires. Early symptoms of the disease include high fever, chills, and cough.
Between 1980 and 1990, the numbers of Legionnaires cases were relatively consistent; however, the numbers hiked since 2000. The CDC is of the opinion that the national case count is an underestimated figure, and relies on support from hospitals, doctors, and state health departments to report cases as and when they crop up.