DOH investigating case of Legionnaires’ disease on Oahu

KAILUA-KONA — The Hawaii Department of Health is investigating a confirmed case of legionellosis, commonly known as Legionnaires’ disease, in an adult resident of Honolulu.

The department said the individual is hospitalized and receiving treatment. Officials have yet to determine the source of the infection.

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So far this year, there have been six cases of individuals confirmed with legionellosis in Hawaii, including the current case under investigation. Four of the cases involved residents and two involved visitors.

For the past five years, Hawaii has had an average of 10 reported cases of individuals per year with no deaths reported. In 2017, 43 percent of the cases were in nonresidents with infections associated with travel-related activities.

Most of the cases involved people who were susceptible to the disease because of compromised immune systems or chronic conditions, the department said. All the cases this year have been unrelated and isolated incidences.

Legionellosis is caused by the bacterium, Legionella. People typically get sick two to 10 days after they breathe in tiny droplets of water in the air containing the bacteria. The bacteria can be found in many places in the environment, such as plumbing systems and hot water tanks, air-conditioning cooling towers, fountains and whirlpool spas.

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People at increased risk for legionellosis infection include people ages 50 years or older, current or former smokers, and people with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions, such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, or kidney or liver failure.

The most common symptoms of legionellosis are fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, and headaches. People should see a doctor right away if they develop pneumonia. Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with standard antibiotics used to treat pneumonia.

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