Legionella is the Source of Most Tap Water Outbreaks

Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, is the most common source of tap water outbreaks, hospitalizations, and deaths, according to a new study by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People get Legionnaires’ disease when they inhale water vapor that is contaminated with Legionella, not by drinking it.

Legionnaires’s disease is a severe form of pneumonia that is often fatal. This study examined 214 outbreaks that occurred in 28 states from 2015 to 2020. Of these, 187 were biofilm-associated, 24 were enteric illness-associated, and three were of an unknown origin.

What are Biofilms?

Biofilms are “microbial communities that attach to moist surfaces (e.g., water pipes) and provide protection and nutrients for many different types of pathogens, including Legionella,” according to the study. Biofilms grow when water is stagnant or disinfectants aren’t regularly used. The rich environment biofilms create is the main reason Legionella grow best inside water pipes and why biofilms play a role in most Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks. Legionella caused 86 percent of the biofilm-associated outbreaks in this study.

Drinking Water Outbreaks

Legionnaires’ Disease Hospitalizations and Deaths

The case totals in this study illustrate the severity of illness Legionnaires’ disease causes.

 The Legionella outbreaks resulted in:

  • 786 illnesses – 37 percent of the total
  • 544 hospitalizations – 97 percent of the total
  • 86 deaths – 98 percent of the total

Most Common Setting for Waterborne Outbreaks

Hospitals, healthcare facilities, and nursing homes were the most common settings, accounting for 53 percent of the outbreaks. Hotels were the second most common spot with 16 percent of outbreaks.

Waterborne pathogens cause more than 7 million illnesses, 118,000 hospitalizations, and 6,630 deaths in the U.S. each year. Tap water is associated with 40 percent of hospitalizations and 50 percent of deaths.

Experienced Legionnaires’ Disease Lawyers

Our Legionnaires’ lawyers are among the few in the nation who have won multimillion-dollar recoveries for Legionnaires’ disease outbreak victims and their families. To request your free consultation with our experienced Legionnaires’ Team, call us at 1-888-377-8900, text us at 612-261-0856, or use the form below.

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Category: Legionnaires' Disease
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