| Read Time: 4 minutes | Legionnaires’ Disease
What Is the Most Common Way of Contracting Legionnaires’ and Legionella?

Did your doctor recently diagnose you with Legionnaires’ disease? Are you wondering what to do about your medical bills? Maybe you read about a Legionnaires’ outbreak and now you’re worried about catching it? Regardless of why you’re wondering, “What is the most common way of contracting Legionnaires’ and legionella?” we have a guide for you here. Today we will learn about what legionella and Legionnaires’ disease are, how you get the disease, and what you can do if you get sick.

Where Legionella Is Most Commonly Found

You find legionella naturally in open water sources like lakes and rivers. It also occurs in water systems in buildings such as air conditioning units, hot tubs, and showers. When these systems are not maintained and cleaned properly, a build-up of the bacteria occurs and infects the water system.

Common Ways to Contract Legionnaires’ Disease

You can catch Legionnaires’ disease if you inhale or ingest droplets of water contaminated by the legionella bacteria. The most common way to contract Legionnaires’ disease is by inhaling aerosols of contaminated water droplets released into the air. For example, this can happen while using a hot tub or hot shower that has not been cleaned in a while. 

A well-known, recent outbreak happened in 2017 when Disneyland did not properly maintain its cooling towers. The park had devices that sprayed cool water on guests, and a group of over 20 people fell ill, with two deaths. 

People commonly contract the disease while traveling. You can also catch the disease from your home systems, though that does not happen as frequently. Home refrigerators and air conditioners don’t use a water cooling system. However, if you have left your house for a period of time, you should definitely flush your pipes so you don’t get sick. 

How Can You Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease?

If you are a building owner or manager, the best way to prevent legionella buildup is by maintaining your water systems. You can do this by checking disinfectants and cleaning chemicals in hot tubs and pools and cleaning them regularly, as well as testing bacteria levels in the water. Regularly inspect other water systems, such as fountains or commercial air conditioning systems and disinfect if necessary. For example, if water has been sitting in the pipes of a hotel room that was vacant for a few days, you should have your maintenance staff or housekeeping flush it thoroughly before the next occupant. The CDC released a Water Management Plan toolkit to provide some guidance. 

If you are afraid of contracting Legionnaires’ disease yourself, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. Run your shower water before using it or using any of the sink water. Legionella likes warmer, stagnant water. Rinsing through pipes with cold water and then very hot water for five minutes each should help reduce the bacteria and disinfect the pipes. You could also ask the hotel or property manager how often they maintain and clean their hot tubs and pools.

Who Is at Risk for Contracting Legionnaires’ Disease?

Anyone can contract Legionnaires’ disease, but some individuals are in more danger than others. People with increased risk include:

  • People who smoke;
  • People with chronic lung disease, i.e. emphysema or COPD;
  • People with compromised immune systems;
  • People over 50;
  • People with cancer; and
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes.

Generally most healthy people can handle being exposed to legionella without getting Legionnaires’ disease. People that have one or more of those risk factors should be especially cautious. Legionnaires’ disease can be very serious—even fatal.

What Should You Do If You Contract Legionnaires’ Disease?

If you are having pneumonia-like symptoms, you should always see a doctor. Symptoms of  Legionnaires’ disease are very much like pneumonia: cough, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, chills, and shortness of breath. Respiratory illnesses in general should always be treated with care. Legionnaires’ disease in particular can be very dangerous. If left untreated, it could lead to respiratory system failure, kidney failure, organ damage, cardiac infections, and death. If you think you contracted Legionnaires’ disease, you must contact a doctor. In addition to protecting your health, this can be helpful if you decide to pursue a legal claim because you will need a confirmed diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease.

Who Is Liable If You Contract Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionella is a water management issue. It is not an airborne illness, it is a waterborne illness. Legionella overgrowth can really only happen in dirty and poorly maintained water systems. Legionnaires’ disease, then, is a result of someone’s negligence. Even if you contracted Legionnaires’ disease in your own home, there may be an outbreak in your town water system due to someone else’s negligence. If you were away on vacation, the responsible person could be any number of people. That could include hotel or property owners, maintenance companies, landlords, etc. 

If you suffered losses and damages because of your Legionnaires’ disease, you should contact an attorney for help. You have two years from the time you get sick to begin a legal claim for Legionnaires’ disease in the state of California. Figuring out whom to sue will probably be the toughest part of your legal claim. Next you will need a confirmed diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease from your doctor. Creating a thorough record of your medical treatments and other expenses will help you build a case to support the amount of your damages. Everyone’s claim will be different, because your damages depend on all the circumstances. You can claim financial losses such as costs of medical care and past and future lost wages. You can also count non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress in your claim for damages.

How Will a Legionnaires’ Disease Attorney Help Me?

Your attorney must be familiar with Legionnaires’ disease and the lawsuits that come from it. They will help you determine whom to sue and gather evidence to show that the person’s negligence caused your illness. They will also handle crafting a strong case for fair compensation. Though personal injury cases usually settle, if your attorney cannot negotiate a fair settlement with the defendants, they will pursue compensation from a jury award at trial.

Contact Riley | Ersoff LLP for Help with Your Legionnaires’ Disease Claim

Riley | Ersoff LLP focuses exclusively on legal cases involving property owners’ negligence. Our lawyers handle cases such as Legionnaires’ disease and lead-based paint poisoning. We are personal injury attorneys with years of experience handling successful lawsuits for our clients that were injured due to dangerous property conditions. You can view some of our results on our website. Contact us today to set up a consultation for your Legionnaires’ disease claim.

Author Photo

Victoria L. Ersoff

Victoria Ersoff is a litigation attorney with over 28 years’ experience on both sides of the courtroom, having represented both defendants and plaintiffs alike. Victoria’s proactive, innovative and aggressive approach to the practice of law has yielded an unbroken string of jury verdicts for her clients. She is nationally known for her expertise in all facets of toxic tort litigation and mass bacterial outbreaks including her handling of over 1,000 Legionnaires’ disease claims nationwide. Victoria is nationally known as the “go to” Legionnaires’ disease attorney. She has handled cases across the country including all facets of toxic tort litigation, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.

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