What to know about Legionnaires’ disease, lung infection confirmed at Arkansas senior center


A resident at the Methodist Village Senior Living facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

The Arkansas Health Care Association (AHCA), of which Methodist Village is a member, announced confirmation of the news last week.

“We have one resident with a confirmed case of Legionnaires’,” Cat Hamilton, the director of member services for AHCA, told Fox affiliate KNWA

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“We have implemented our water management plan and are working in collaboration with the Fort Smith Utility Department and the Arkansas Department of Health.”

Fox News Digital reached out to Methodist Village Senior Living and the AHCA for additional comment.

Those who have any of the symptoms noted in this article should seek medical attention immediately, the CDC advises. (iStock)

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. 

The bacteria is usually found in lakes, streams and other freshwater environments.

However, it can grow and spread indoors via shower heads, sink faucets, hot tubs, water features/fountains, plumbing systems and other water systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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When people swallow or breathe in droplets of water that contain Legionella, they can potentially become ill with Legionnaires’ disease.

Although human transmission is possible in rare cases, the disease is not typically spread from person to person, per the CDC.

Legionella bacteria

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria.  (iStock)

“Individuals at highest risk include smokers and those with coexisting pulmonary disease,” Dr. Nathan Goodyear, medical director of Brio-Medical in Arizona, told Fox News Digital. 

“Other risk factors,” he said, “include advancing age, cardiovascular disease, obesity and compromised immune systems.”

Symptoms of the infection

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease usually show up between two and 14 days after exposure. 

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The signs are similar to other types of pneumonia, and include the following:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches and headaches

Some patients may also experience nausea, diarrhea and confusion, the CDC noted. 

Senior in hospital

Individuals at highest risk for Legionnaires’ disease include smokers and those with coexisting pulmonary disease, a doctor told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

“The nature of the symptoms are not necessarily what differentiate Legionella from other causes, but history of exposure from ‘human-made reservoirs,’ though this may be hard to discern early on in infection and/or in an outbreak,” said Goodyear.

“Cancer is also a comorbidity of Legionnaires’ disease,” the doctor added.

Those who have any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately, the CDC advises.

Diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease is made via chest X-ray, urine test and lab analysis of a phlegm sample.

Most people with the disease will recover with a course of antibiotics.

In some patients, however, serious illness can lead to lung failure or death, per the CDC.

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Around 10% of people who contract Legionnaires’ disease will die from those complications — and the mortality risk rises to 25% for those who get Legionnaires’ while staying in a health care facility, according to the CDC.

“Treatment needs to be early and aggressive,” Goodyear told Fox News Digital. “Legionella infection is an intracellular infection that requires antibiotic treatment.”

Bacterial pneumonia

A diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease is made via chest X-ray, urine test and lab analysis of a phlegm sample. (iStock)

Antibiotics that are appropriate for Legionella infection include Levofloxacin and Azithromycin. 

“Therapy can be prescribed orally in healthy individuals … but intravenous antibiotics often prove to be the initial option for treatment secondary to the pathogenicity of the disease,” Goodyear said.

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Currently, there are no vaccines for the disease. 

The best strategy to prevent infection is to reduce the growth and spread of the Legionella bacteria.

The CDC recommends that building owners and managers use a water management program to reduce the risk.

water in shower

The bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease can grow and spread indoors via indoor water systems, the CDC says. (iStock)

To prevent serious illness from Legionnaires’, Goodyear recommends that all smokers kick the habit, and also emphasizes the need to “aggressively support” chronic pulmonary disease.

“Advancing age is a given in life, and immune dysfunction correlates with advancing age,” added Good year. 

“Increasing immune support (vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Zinc) is required to counter the immune dysfunction associated with advancing age.”

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Obesity is another foundational risk factor for all inflammatory chronic diseases, Goodyear noted.

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