Health Ministry: Infants get Legionnaires’ disease

Disease caused by standing water usually affecting adults diagnosed in 3 babies in the Center and coastal regions.

March 15, 2012 02:48
1 minute read.
Twin babies sleeping [illustrative photo]

Twin babies sleeping 390 (R). (photo credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)


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Doctors have diagnosed three cases of Legionnella bacterial pneumonia infections in babies under the age of one since the beginning of this year, and three others a year before, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

According to the ministry, the cases were reported in the Center and coastal regions.

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The disease, caused by standing water in pipes such as air conditioning infrastructure, has rarely been diagnosed in infants; it usually affects adults – especially the elderly.

Legionellosis is a potentially fatal infectious disease caused by gram-negative, aerobic bacteria belonging to the genus Legionella. The vast majority of cases are caused by Legionella pneumophila, a ubiquitous aquatic organism that thrives in temperatures between 25ºC and 45ºC.

The first-known outbreak occurred in July 1976 among people attending a convention of the American Legion at a Philadelphia hotel. Six months later, the factor causing the disease was identified as a previously unknown strain of bacteria, later dubbed Legionella.

The media splashed the story everywhere, and panic about potential infection from air conditioning systems ensued. However, isolated cases are more common than outbreaks.

When there are numerous cases at once, usually in the warmer months, the death rate has ranged from five percent to 30%.


Legionellosis is also contracted in hospitals, where the death rate among the elderly is considerably higher.

Cold-steam inhalation machines have also been implicated. The bacteria are naturally found in small amounts that are not infectious, but in some cases, standing water and calcium deposits create a larger concentration of the bacteria that can cause disease in people who are exposed.

People who smoke, have chronic respiratory disease or other disorders that weaken their immune systems are at higher risk, but Legionellosis is not transferable from one person to the next.

According to the Health Ministry, proper maintenance in public buildings in accordance with ministry guidelines can prevent infection there.

Water tanks, faucet and shower heads, and other devices should be properly cleaned and maintained.

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