Legionellosis is an uncommon form of pneumonia. The disease has no particular clinical features that clearly distinguish it from other types of pneumonia, and laboratory investigations must be carried out to confirm the diagnosis. It normally takes between two to ten days to develop symptoms (typically five to six days) but very rarely some cases may take two to three weeks to develop symptoms. Patients usually start with a dry cough, fever, headache and sometimes diarrhoea and many people go on to get pneumonia. People over the age of 50 are more at risk than younger people, and males are more at risk than females. Effective antibiotic treatment is available if the diagnosis is made early in the illness. Deaths occur in about 5-15% of travellers who get the disease, depending on their age and individual health status. Smokers are more at risk than non-smokers.
People become infected when they breathe in air that contains tiny droplets of water known as aerosols, inside of which are the Legionella bacteria. If the bacteria get inhaled into the lungs they can cause infection. Legionellosis cannot be got from water you drink that enters your stomach in the normal way – the bacterium has to get into the lungs through breathing it in. The illness is not spread from person to person.