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Delaware Health Alert Network #38

July 30, 2003 3:45 pm

Health Advisory

Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) is investigating two additional cases of Legionnaires' disease, including one death, bringing the state's total to 15 cases. The fatality was a 77 year-old Sussex County man who was diagnosed July 26. The other case is an 82 year-old New Castle County man, diagnosed July 29. These are the first cases reported since July 14.

To date, no trends or links have been found among the state's Legionnaires' disease cases to suggest a common source of transmission. Eight are from New Castle County, three are Sussex County residents and four are out-of-state residents who were hospitalized in Delaware. All were hospitalized for the illness. One person is currently hospitalized for Legionnaires' disease. Delaware had no cases of Legionnaires' disease this year prior to May 29.

DPH is investigating all cases of Legionnaires' disease, including two fatalities that occurred in Delaware since May 29. DPH is working with Delaware hospitals and physicians to monitor the occurrence of Legionnaires' disease. DPH is also cooperating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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. Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida have reported 237 cases of Legionnaires' disease so far this year, compared to 97 cases in the same time period last year. To date, no common sources of infection have been reported among these states. An average of 14 cases per year of Legionnaires' disease were reported to DPH from 1995-2002.

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.

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. For information, call DPH at 888-295-5156 or see

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