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What is the treatment for Legionnaires' disease?

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Quick Answer

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, doctors treat Legionnaires' disease with antibiotics as soon as it is suspected, without waiting for test results. Patients sometimes receive fluids and oxygen as additional treatments. Antibiotic treatment usually lasts at least five days, according to WebMD, but full recovery can take two to four months. Although Legionnaires' disease can be deadly, most cases are treated successfully.

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Full Answer

The Mayo Clinic classifies Legionnaires' disease as a severe form of pneumonia caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, which are found in water systems, such as air conditioning units and whirlpool spas. People contract the disease when they breathe in water droplets containing the bacteria.

According to WebMD, Legionnaires' disease is not contagious. Most cases affect middle-aged or older people, especially smokers and those with weakened immune systems or chronic lung disease, such as asthma. Symptoms usually get worse in the first several days and include chest pain, dry cough, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Doctors diagnose Legionnaires' disease by testing patients' urine or mucus for the bacteria.

The Mayo Clinic reports that the Legionella bacterium also causes Pontiac fever, a milder illness with flu-like symptoms that usually clears up on its own. Legionnaires' disease got its name in 1976, when attendees at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia became infected, notes WebMD.

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