November 29, 2011

Legionnaires' disease cases jump in Maine, New England

Maine advises medical providers to be alert for the severe strain of pneumonia, which often puts those it infects in the hospital.

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

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Legionella bacteria can cause a severe strain of pneumonia when inhaled in water droplets or vapor.

CDC photo

Valenti said he is stumped by the recent increase around the state and the region.

None of the 18 cases diagnosed this year appears to be related to others, according to the CDC.

"We try to make links to see if there is any water system connecting the cases, and we haven't made any," Sears said.

The 18 Maine patients range in age from 26 to 89. They live in eight counties, with nine of the 18 living in Cumberland and York counties.

The CDC does not identify the towns where patients live, to make sure that residents of small towns cannot be identified, Sears said.

Alfred DeMaria, state epidemiologist in Massachusetts, said the increase appears to have occurred since August throughout the Northeast and in eastern Canada.

"We have investigated the distribution of our cases and found no common exposures except for a couple of circumstances," DeMaria wrote in an email Monday.

Some European experts have linked an increase in the disease to climatic conditions, although that has not been proven, DeMaria said.

"The idea is that wet and warm, but not too hot, weather favors the organism and its aerosolization," he said.

More information on legionellosis can be found on the Maine CDC website or the federal CDC website.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:


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