Recently, Legionella has made the news as outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported from Maryland to the United Kingdom and Spain. These Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria can be found in natural, freshwater environments across much of the globe, but they are typically present in insufficient numbers to cause disease. Unfortunately, various manmade environments can provide ideal breeding grounds for the amplification and dispersion of this microbe.
Another disease caused by the same type of bacterium is Pontiac Fever. Unlike Legionnaires’ disease, which is a serious form of pneumonia that can be fatal, Pontiac Fever is a much milder infection with flu-like symptoms. The term legionellosis can refer separately, or collectively, to Pontiac Fever and Legionnaires’ disease.
The incubation period for Pontiac Fever is believed to be approximately 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the Legionella bacteria. Symptoms usually last for 2 to 5 days and may include fever, headaches, and muscle aches. There is no pneumonia with Pontiac Fever as is the case with Legionnaires’ disease.
“Symptoms of Pontiac Fever often go away on their own without treatment or causing further problems for many infected individuals,” reported Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President, Marketing at EMSL Analytical, Inc., a leading Legionella testing laboratory. “People tend to make a complete recovery so many may not even realize they have been infected by Legionella.”
The CDC reports that between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease each year in the U.S., but numbers for Pontiac Fever are more elusive. EMSL offers both traditional culture methods for detecting the bacteria as well as rapid DNA based testing services that can provide results in hours instead of days to identify this pathogen.