Legionnaire's disease [key], infectious, sometimes fatal, disease characterized by high fever, dry cough, lung congestion, and subsequent pneumonia. Major organs, such as the heart, may be damaged as the disease progresses. The disease struck over 180 people attending an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in July, 1976—hence the name. The causative bacterium, later identified as Legionella pneumophilia, may enter the lungs through aspiration of contaminated water, especially in patients who smoke or have lung disease; it also may be inhaled via contaminated water that has been aerosolized. People who smoke heavily, have lung disease, or have compromised immune systems are most at risk for the disease. A milder form of the disease has also been identified. Treatment is with the antibiotic erythromycin.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pathology