Legionnaire's disease: Update on epidemiology and management options

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Abstract

Infection with Legionella spp. is an important cause of serious community- and hospital-acquired pneumonia, occurring sporadically and in outbreaks. Outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease have recently received considerable media attention, and some factors indicate that the problem will increase in future. Infection with Legionella spp. ranks among the three most common causes of severe pneumonia in the community setting, and is isolated in 1-40% of cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia. Underdiagnosis and underreporting are high. Only 2-10% of estimated cases are reported. Detection of a single case should not be considered an isolated sporadic event, but rather indicative of unrecognized cases. There are no clinical features unique to Legionnaires' disease; however, suspicion should be raised by epidemiologic information commensurate with the diagnosis and the presence of headache, confusion, hyponatremia, elevated creatine kinase and/or severe pneumonia. An arterial oxygen partial pressure <60mm Hg on presentation and progression of pulmonary infiltrates despite appropriate antibacterial therapy should always alert clinicians to this cause. Macrolides, fluoroquinolones and rifampin (rifampicin) are the most widely used drugs in treatment. Fluoroquinolones or azithromycin are the treatment of choice in immunosuppressed patients and those with severe pneumonia. Incorporation of the legionella urinary antigen test in emergency departments in hospitals and progressive improvement in this test will, in the near future, permit appropriate diagnosis and treatment of this frequent, sometimes severe, illness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-243
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory Medicine
Volume2
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003

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