DHHS Continues to Investigate Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak in WNC


What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria.  Read more about the disease here.

How severe is the illness?

Legionnaires’ disease can be very serious and even cause death.  Most cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics and healthy people usually recover from the infection.

How do people get Legionnaires’ disease?

The disease is spread through breathing in tiny water droplets containing the Legionella bacteria.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person. 

Legionella bacteria is most commonly found in warm water, especially stagnant or standing water.  Legionella bacteria can be found naturally in freshwater environments such as lakes and streams; it has also been isolated in manmade water systems such hot tubs, cooling towers, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains. 

Outbreaks occur following the exposure of individuals to a common source of the bacteria in the environment.

Who is most susceptible?

Most people who are exposed to Legionella do not get sick but some people are more at risk than others.  There are factors that can put people at an increased risk of getting sick: being age 50 years or older, being a current or former smoker, having a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema), having a weakened immune system or taking drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy), having cancer, or having underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include: a high fever, chills, cough, and fatigue or weakness.  Some people also suffer from muscle aches or headaches.

How soon do the symptoms occur?

Symptoms usually begin 2 to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria.

What is the treatment?

Certain antibiotics are effective in treating the disease.  Early diagnosis and treatment are important for recovery.

Where can I get more information?


To see the official press release from NC DHHS, click here: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/news/press-releases/health-officials-continue-investigation-significant-legionnaires%E2%80%99-disease

For additional information or to report possible cases of Legionnaires’ disease, please call the Division of Public Health at (919) 733-3419 or contact the Jackson County Department of Public Health at 828-586-8994.