Maine Health Officials Investigating Six Cases Of Legionnaires' Disease In Bangor Area

Jul 12, 2019

Legionella pneumophila, a bacterium that can cause Legionnaires' disease, growing on specialized microbiological media.
Credit U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says it's investigating six cases of Legionnaires' disease that have cropped up in the greater Bangor area.  One person who became ill has died, but officials say they've haven't confirmed that the death is a result of the Legionella bacteria, which causes the illness.

State health officials say they're seeking to find out whether the victims shared a common exposure or whether the cluster of cases in the area is coincidental.

Those who were sickened ranged in age from 50 to 85, Maine CDC officials say.  All six were hospitalized.  In the past five years, Penobscot County, where all of the cases have occurred, has had an average of only three cases a year. Maine averages about 30 diagnosed cases a year.

Officials say the bacteria is found naturally in fresh water, such as lakes and streams, but can become a threat if it gets into building air conditioning systems, hot tubs, fountains and other plumbing systems, where it can grow and spread.

Breathing in water droplets contaminated with the bacteria can result in a type of pneumonia that causes cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and headaches. In can be fatal in those with compromised immune systems or other conditions.

This story will be updated.