What is Legionnaires' Disease and how is it spread?

After yet another Memphis hotel reported an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease, we wanted to let people know exactly what it is and how you could contract it.

>>Legionnaires outbreak reported at The Guest House at Graceland

The Shelby County Health Department reported an outbreak of at least three cases of Legionnaires at The Guest House at Graceland, which just opened in October.

Legionnaires Disease is caused by the bacteria, Legionella.

>>CDC: Legionnaires' Disease and Pontiac Fever 

Legionella is found naturally in freshwater enviroments like lakes and streams, but it becomes a health hazard when it grows and spreads in human-made water systems such as hot tubs, showers, faucets, fountains, and large plumbing systems.

You can contract it by inhaling water vapor or mist. Even breathing in those small water droplets is enough to contract the disease if the water contains the bacteria.

You can come in contact with Legionella and not contract the disease.

People at increased risk of contracting Legionnaires include those who are 50 and older, current or former smokers, those with weak immune systems or chronic lung disease, those with cancer, and those with underlying illnesses like diabetes or kidney failure.

Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease mimic those of pneumonia. You can get a cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Symptoms usually last between two to 14 days according to the Shelby County Health Department.

It can take up to two weeks after exposure to the bacteria for symptoms to show up.

Those who experience symptoms of Legionnaires are advised to see a doctor immediately. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.