Recent outbreak of 18 cases of Legionnaire's Disease in Milwaukee County

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by Rielle Creighton
by Jesse Tovar

MILWAUKEE -- Health officials are now trying to get to the bottom of a local outbreak of legionnaires disease, also known as pontiac fever. Milwaukee County has now confirmed a total of 18 cases, 14 of which are in the City of Milwaukee.

There may be other suspected cases, but this now amounts to one of the worst outbreaks in recent time. No deaths have been reported but several have been hospitalized.

Legionnaire's disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused by the bacteria legionella. It is not spread by person to person contact but people can become infected from inhaling the bacteria, and if left untreated it can lead to death. Those with underlying health conditions and the elderly are most at risk.

The Milwaukee County Health Department is investigating the cases but says as of right now they believe the threat level is minimal. Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker said, "This is not something that is an immediate public health threat but we're trying to get to the source and for those 14 or 15 confirmed cases we're moving to try and isolate the source." 

Legionnaire's disease may be transmitted through small droplets of water aspirated into the lungs, so often showers and air conditioners can be the culprit.

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