The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is investigating a possible cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in residents of neighboring municipalities in Passaic and Bergen counties.
As of Dec. 28, NJDOH is aware of seven confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease. Another suspected case is under investigation.
The cases were reported to NJDOH between Nov. 9 and Dec. 21.
NJDOH is working with the local health departments in those counties to investigate these cases. Earlier this month, it alerted local health departments, health care providers and other public health partners in the area.
“The risk of Legionnaires’ disease among any resident of, or recent visitor to, either Passaic or Bergen County is low,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the department recommends that individuals who live or work in these counties who become ill with pneumonia-like/respiratory symptoms, such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle aches and headache visit their health-care provider immediately to be evaluated.”
Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can take up to two weeks to develop. NJDOH recommends that those who develop symptoms within two weeks of visiting the two counties also seek medical attention.
Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with antibiotics.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to those of COVID-19. A laboratory test is required to determine if you are sick with Legionnaires’ disease or COVID-19.
NJDOH receives 250 to 350 reports of Legionnaires’ disease each year.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by bacteria called Legionella. People can get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in aerosolized (small droplets) water containing Legionella bacteria.
Aerosolized water can come from cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings), hot tubs, cooling misters, decorative fountains and plumbing systems.
Less commonly, people can get sick when water containing Legionella is aspirated into the lungs while drinking. People at increased risk of aspiration include those with swallowing difficulties. Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person.
It is rare for healthy people exposed to Legionella to develop Legionnaires’ disease. However, people older than 50, especially those who smoke cigarettes or those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease.