The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating six recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bangor area to see if they are connected.

“Maine CDC is actively investigating to try to identify a common exposure among the cases or determine whether they are coincidental,” the agency said in a statement. “Health care providers have diagnosed approximately one new case each month since November 2018. All the individuals were hospitalized and one person with the illness died, though Maine CDC has not established the bacteria as the cause of death.”

Penobscot County has averaged three Legionnaires’ disease cases per year. Maine had 33 cases in 2018, and there were 7,500 across the United States.

“Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person,” the statement said. “Maine CDC is announcing this investigation to make the public aware, but residents in the area do not need to take any specific actions in response.”

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments, such as lakes and streams. Legionella can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made building water systems such as cooling towers used in air conditioning systems, hot tubs, fountains, and large plumbing systems. Legionnaires’ disease, which is a type of pneumonia, may result when individuals breathe in droplets of water that contain the bacteria. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches.

Those at increased risk of getting sick are people age 50 or older, smokers, people with suppressed immune systems, cancer or other diseases. Most people who receive antibiotic treatment recover fully, but one in 10 who contract the disease die, the CDC said.


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