Legionnaires’ Disease Symptoms and Diagnosis

Legionnaires’ disease has similar symptoms to other types of pneumonia and is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed early enough for treatment to be effective. One reason for this is the fact that Legionnaires disease diagnosis requires with specific medical lab tests.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease

Anywhere between two and 14 days following exposure to the Legionella bacteria, symptoms of the disease may appear. Several symptoms appear first, and then additional symptoms manifest and worsen for up to six days. Legionnaires disease symptoms can show up almost two weeks from the time of exposure, which is why it is often misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, or diagnosed late.

The first symptoms that may be experienced are the following:

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • High fever

Secondary symptoms can include these:

  • Cough, which may bring up mucus and sometimes blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Confusion or other mental changes

Not only is contacting your doctor to report any of these symptoms important for you in order to get early diagnosis and proper treatment, but it is also important for the local State Health Department and/or Center for Disease Control to receive notification. After recovering from the illness of a Legionnaires disease outbreak, it is important to consider pursuing compensation for your pain and suffering.

Diagnosis of Legionnaires’ Disease

Although the early and subsequent symptoms of the illness are indicators, it is only with lab tests that a doctor can make a true and clear diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease. A chest x-ray is helpful, but it does not identify the specific illness creating the respiratory symptoms.

The lab tests examine the following:

  • Sputum culture for the Legionella bacteria
  • Blood for red and white cell counts and also for blood gases
  • Urine for the Legionella pneumophila bacteria

The segment of the population most often diagnosed with Legionnaires disease consists of middle-aged people or the elderly, individuals with compromised immune systems and smokers. Although children are less likely to develop Legionnaires’ disease, it does sometimes occur in newborns who are undergoing respiratory therapy, children who have immune system problems and children who have recently had surgery.

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