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Six isolated cases of Legionnaires' disease confirmed in Hawaii this year

HONOLULU (KHON2) - The Department of Health confirmed the newest case of Legionnaires' disease is an adult resident of Hawaii.

Bruce Anderson, the department of health director, said it's an isolated incident.

"There's nothing unusual about this that we have seen so far. We are investigating. The person is still in the hospital. Hopefully will recover...There's no evidence that there's an outbreak, nothing to suggest that there's any risk to public health that needs to be abated."

There have been six cases of Legionnaires' disease in Hawaii so far this year.

"Typically we have about 10 cases a year but it varies from year to year. Recently we've been seeing more cases here probably because we have more visitors," Anderson said.

Of the six cases, four have been residents and two were visitors.

Legionnaires' disease is a severe type of pneumonia, caused by inhaling the Legionella bacteria in contaminated water droplets. 

But finding the source can be difficult because the bacteria is found in many places.

Legionella bacteria is found naturally in freshwater sources like streams or lakes. the problem occurs when the bacteria grows out of control in poorly maintained building water systems.

"It's a waterborne illness, basically aerosolized. So air handling systems, heating systems, spas are a common source of infection," Anderson said.

Legionella can also be found in air conditioning units, showers or even faucets.

"The fatality rates are usually quite high and the people most at risk have compromised immune systems and may have chronic respiratory conditions. People with emphysema for example and they're a high risk population to start with. It's usually an older population. People over 50 are at most risk for having the disease," Anderson said.

He added that it's really more about the health of the person rather than the source of the illness.

"The disease is often associated with travel so if you've been traveling and particularly if you've been using spas and been exposed to aerosols that might be contaminated, in foreign countries this would be probably more common than here in the US, you should see a doctor if you're starting to feel sick," Anderson said.

Here is a look at more information about Legionnaires' disease.


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