MN officials are investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease


Health officials are investigating new cases of Legionnaires' disease in Minnesota.

There have been five confirmed cases of the infection in people who live or work in Hopkins, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday.

According to the release, the people became ill between Aug. 4 and Sept 1 – and all of them are over the age of 50. Three are currently hospitalized, while the other two were hospitalized but have since recovered.

The department is working with Hennepin County Public Health officials to investigate the source of the outbreak.

What is Legionnaires' disease?

According to the MN Department of Health,

It's an infection caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, which is found in many types of water systems.

Symptoms include muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, coughing, high fever, pneumonia, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

It gets the funny name from the first recognized outbreak, which took place at a 1976 convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia.

"Minnesota typically sees 50 to 60 cases of Legionellosis each year. More than 60 cases have been reported in the state so far this year, mirroring a national increase in cases in 2016. No other clusters have been reported in Minnesota this year," the agency said.

How is it spread?

It is not spread from person to person or by drinking water.

You get Legionnaires' disease by inhaling fine spray from water that contains the Legionella bacteria.

People can be exposed to these aerosols in their homes, at work, or in hospitals and other public places.

The bacteria reproduce in high numbers in warm water and can be found in plumbing systems, hot water tanks, cooling towers, large air conditioning systems, and whirlpool spas.

Most people who are exposed to Legionella don't develop Legionnaires' disease.

But people over 50 (like the five involved in this cluster), plus smokers or others with certain medical conditions or weakened immune systems are at an increased risk for the disease.

Most cases of Legionnaires' disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics – the fatality rate is 5-30%.

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