May 29, 2019
In another outbreak of illness facing Americans, the New Jersey Department of Health is reportedly investigating a “cluster” of Legionnaires’ disease cases in Union County, New Jersey.
This north-central New Jersey county has seen 22 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease among those who live in or have visited the county as of May 23, the department explains in a release. Further, five deaths have also been reported in older adult residents — all of whom were otherwise healthy.
The New Jersey health department claims to be working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate these concentrated cases.
Legionnaires' disease is, according to Mayo Clinic, a severe form of pneumonia that is caused by bacteria and is typically spread by inhaling that bacteria — not through person-to-person contact.
Symptoms typically surface between two to 10 days after exposure, per Mayo Clinic, and include headache, muscle pain, cough, chest pain and more. Those who smoke or have a weakened immune system have a higher risk of becoming infected.
Outbreaks most often are associated with buildings or structures with complex water systems, like hotels or cruise ships, according to the CDC. That's because the bacterium can grow and spread in the human-made water systems like cooling towers, large plumbing systems or hot water tanks.
In Union County, those affected by the illness became sick between March 8 and May 13, according to the department.
“This is a continuing investigation. The risk to any resident of, or recent visitor to Union County is very small,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal in the release. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Department recommends that individuals who live in Union County who become ill with pneumonia-like/respiratory symptoms, such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and headache visit their healthcare provider.”