Officials see rise in Legionnaires disease cases

Krystle Wagner • Aug 24, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease are on the rise in West Michigan, as well as across the country.

On Thursday, Ottawa County Department of Public Health officials issued a press release noting Ottawa, Muskegon and Kent counties are seeing an increase in cases reported here, as are health officials across Michigan and the country. According to the press release, a common source hasn’t been identified in relation to the recent cases.

According to the Michigan Disease Surveillance System weekly disease report, there have been 292 cases reported so far this year in the state. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service’s report takes probable, suspected and confirmed cases into account.

A total of 309 cases and 348 cases were reported in 2016 and 2017, respectively, according to the report.

The Ottawa County health department did not say how many cases have been reported specifically in West Michigan.

“It is important people are aware of the signs and symptoms of this serious type of lung infection and contact their doctor right away if they become sick,” said Marcia Mansaray, epidemiologist for the Ottawa County department.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of severe pneumonia, a lung infection, caused by breathing in droplets of water containing Legionella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include a cough, fever, muscle aches, headache and shortness of breath.

Kristina Weighmink, spokesperson for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, said that it’s important for people to monitor their symptoms and contact their doctor.

X-rays or physical exams are used to check for pneumonia, and doctors might also order urine and sputum tests to see if the lung infection is caused by Legionella, according to the CDC.

Individuals at an increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease are people who are age 50 and older, being a former or current smoker, taking medication that weakens your immune system, having chronic lung disease, and having a weakened immune system from a disease such as diabetes, cancer or kidney failure.

Legionella, a type of bacterium, can be found in freshwater environments and man-made water systems.

The Ottawa County press release noted that Legionnaires’ disease is more common during warmer months because that’s when temperatures are ideal for bacteria growth.

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