8 Symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease

Legionnaire’s disease is a form of atypical pneumonia, which is caused by the bacterium Legionella spp. The condition got its name after the outbreak at the American Legion convention in Philadelphia, where it was first identified in the year 1976.

The microorganism that causes this naturally lives in standing waters, but it can colonize air conditioners, hot water tanks, hot tubes, cooling towers, etc. People are infected by inhaling the aerosol, usually in places with artificial ventilation. This microorganism is not transmitted from one person to another, so if there is an outbreak of Legionnaires disease the most reasonable step to take would be to check the water supplies and air conditioners.

Symptoms usually occur after 7 to 10 days of incubation, and the recovery begins 4 to 5 days from the onset of the symptoms. Full recovery time takes a couple of months.

Diagnosis of Legionnaire’s disease can be difficult sometimes because clinical and radiological signs are nonspecific. The gold standard is a culture diagnosis, but it requires 7 to 10 days to obtain a positive result. For these reasons, doctors nowadays use a simple urine test that detects Legionella urinary antigen. Legionnaire’s disease is a severe condition, and the key to successful recovery is early diagnosis and treatment.

Some common symptoms are:

1. Fever

In the early stages of Legionnaire’s disease, the patient will feel cold, the skin will be pale, and they will have shivers. As the condition progresses, the body temperature increases, usually going over 40°C. This increase in temperatures leads to exhaustion and severe headaches.

The second phase is the opposite; the temperature quickly lowers, the patient feels warm and will sweat profusely. After a few hours, the temperature increase/decrease cycle starts over again, but with the right medication, these cycles can be successfully interrupted.

2. Headache

This is a common symptom of Legionnaire’s disease, and it is related to the rise in body temperature. These headaches can be unbearable, but once the body temperature starts to go down after 4 or 5 days, the pain gradually decreases.

More symptoms on next page…

About Dr Alex Grbovic 13 Articles
Dr Aleksandar Grbović is a medical doctor from the Belgrade University, Faculty of Medicine. He is passionate about promoting medicine by bridging the gap between the patient’s and doctor’s point of view. Currently working in the biggest Occupational Medicine Institute in Serbia and attending the Radiology residency program.


The content of this website is not intended to be taken as a replacement for professional medical advice, care, diagnosis or treatment of a doctor, dietician, nutritionist or fitness instructor. If you experience any medical symptoms you should consult your doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.