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Can You Get Legionnaires’ Disease from Drinking Water?

African American woman feeling sick and holding her chest in pain. Concept of Can You Get Legionnaires' Disease from Drinking Water

Can you get Legionnaires’ disease from drinking water? Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease if it is present in drinking water that is accidentally inhaled into the lungs. This happens when water that you are drinking “goes down the wrong pipe”, or when you inhale small amounts of drinking water.

African American woman feeling sick and holding her chest in pain. Concept of Can You Get Legionnaires' Disease from Drinking Water

There is currently no vaccine for Legionnaires’ disease. However, the construction and maintenance of water management systems can help prevent the disease. If you contracted Legionnaires’ disease after staying in a hotel or any other establishment infested with Legionella bacteria in Las Vegas, Nevada, a knowledgeable Legionnaires’ disease lawyer can help you recover compensation.

What Is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia that affects the respiratory system and lungs. It is caused by the legionella bacteria that is found naturally in freshwater sources like lakes and reservoirs. This bacterium flourishes in warm water ranging from 95 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and can survive in temperatures as low as 77 degrees. When building owners or managers fail to maintain and clean their water systems, it can lead to an overgrowth of the legionella bacteria. People can contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling water vapor that is contaminated with the bacteria. They can also develop a similar but less severe illness called Pontiac fever. Legionellosis is the term used for either Legionnaires’ Disease or Pontiac fever.

The incubation period for Legionnaire’s Disease is 2 to 10 days, although there have been cases where this period has been up to 16 days. It varies in severity from a mild cough to a serious and possibly fatal form of pneumonia.

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of legionnaires’ disease. Legionellosis causes symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, headache, malaise, lethargy, muscle pain, diarrhea, and confusion. A mild cough is also common.

Most Common Places That Legionella Bacteria Can Be Found

Legionella bacteria outbreaks frequently occur in water sources that are contaminated and have temperatures ranging from 77 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. These water sources can either be natural or man-made.

The most common places Legionella outbreaks occur in Las Vegas, Nevada, include natural bodies of water like rivers, lakes, hot springs, creeks, and streams. Legionnaires’ disease can come from places where people live naturally, but it’s more common for large outbreaks to happen in artificial settings.

Water systems built for infrastructure, like plumbing systems, air conditioning systems, and water heaters, are also common places for Legionella bacteria to grow. Outbreaks also occur in recreational water sources, such as pools, spas, and hot tubs.

How Legionella Spreads

Legionella bacteria can occur in parts of a building that are continuously wet. The bacteria then get spread via devices that spread water droplets that are contaminated with the bacteria. You can get exposed to the disease when you inhale contaminated water droplets.

Coming into contact with these devices can put you at risk of contracting the disease. Legionella bacteria can thrive in a variety of places, such as humidifiers, taps, showers, hot tubs, spa pools, and water pipes.

However, you can’t get Legionnaires’ disease from drinking water that’s been contaminated with the bacteria, nor can you catch it from other people who have the condition. The disease is primarily spread by encountering contaminated water droplets that enter your lungs. These water droplets are produced from water sprays, jets, or mists from contaminated water sources. Allowing legionella to spread can be one of the top reasons to file a casino premises liability lawsuit.

Complications of Legionnaires’ Disease if Left Untreated

Legionnaires’ disease can become more severe during the first week if left untreated. Like other factors that cause severe pneumonia, a compromised immune system puts victims at risk of suffering more severe symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease. Respiratory failure, shock, acute kidney failure, and multi-organ failure are the most common complications of legionellosis.

The disease can also affect the kidneys, hindering their ability to function properly. This can lead to waste and toxic accumulating in the body, which can cause further harm to victims. Additionally, if the disease spreads to the heart, it can impact the circulation of blood to vital organs.

The heart may try to compensate by increasing blood volume, but this can weaken cardiac muscles and cause dangerously low blood pressure. If the inflammation in the lungs persists, the lungs may not be able to take in enough oxygen or expel enough carbon dioxide, which can lead to respiratory failure.

The severity of Legionnaires’ disease, the initial antimicrobial treatment received, the place where the Legionella bacteria was contracted, and the patient’s immune system all play a role in determining the mortality rate. Those with weakened immune systems may experience a higher death rate of up to 40-80% if left untreated, but with appropriate management and depending on the severity of symptoms, this can be reduced to 5-30%. Generally, the overall death rate falls within the range of 5-10%.

Long-Term Impacts of Legionnaires’ Disease

It is important to diagnose Legionnaires’ disease as early as possible to increase the likelihood of a positive prognosis and reduce the risk of long-term effects. The severity of symptoms can vary among individuals and may impact the chances of experiencing complications in the future. According to reliable medical sources, it may take several months to fully recover from Legionnaires’ disease, and common side effects, such as fatigue, may persist during this time.

In one study, the following long-term side effects of Legionnaires’ were found:

  • 75% of patients reported long-term fatigue.
  • 66% reported neurologic symptoms.
  • 63% suffered neuromuscular symptoms.
  • 15% suffered from Post-traumatic stress disorder.


If you contract Legionnaires’ disease, antibiotics are required for treatment, and most cases can be successfully treated. While healthy individuals typically recover after contracting this disease, they often require hospital care.

Possible Complications

There are life-threatening complications that can arise from Legionella pneumonia. These can include:

Respiratory Failure

If a patient experiences respiratory failure, his or her chances of recovery become low. This is due to significant damage to the respiratory system, including changes in lung function and a loss of oxygen in the arteries.

Septic Shock

Septic shock occurs when an infection travels through the bloodstream and leads to multiple organ failure, often resulting in fatality.

Kidney Failure

Acute kidney failure can also occur due to sepsis, leading to an inability to eliminate excess fluids and waste from the body. This can result in a dangerous buildup of these substances, potentially resulting in death.


Endocarditis is an infection of the heart’s inner lining, the endocardium, often caused by septic pneumonia. This condition can damage heart valves.


Pericarditis, or swelling and irritation of the membrane around the heart, can also result from sepsis and may cause long-term illness.

Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a nervous system disorder that can cause temporary or, in rare cases, permanent paralysis and may be under diagnosed.

How to Prevent Legionella Growth

Legionnaires’ disease cannot be prevented by any vaccine at the moment. However, you can take preventive measures to reduce the risk of contracting this disease. Failure to take steps to prevent legionella growth can be a reason for suing a hotel for negligence in Nevada.

Create a Water Management Program

To prevent Legionella contamination and outbreaks, it’s important to implement water management plans that include proper device maintenance. This entails regularly cleaning and disinfecting devices, and using physical (temperature) or chemical (biocide) measures to limit growth. Examples of effective measures include regular maintenance, cleaning, and disinfection of cooling towers, along with the frequent addition of biocides.

Drift eliminators can be installed to reduce the spread of aerosols from cooling towers. An adequate level of biocide should be maintained, such as chlorine, in spa pools, while also draining and cleaning the system at least once a week. Hot and cold water systems should be kept clean, and ensuring that the hot water remains above 122 °F (with water leaving the heating unit at or above 140 °F) and the cold water below 77 °F (ideally below68°C). Alternatively, treating water systems with a suitable biocide to limit growth, especially in healthcare settings and aged-care facilities, helps prevent legionella buildup. Unused taps in buildings can be flushed on a weekly basis to prevent stagnation.

By applying these controls, the risk of Legionella contamination can be greatly reduced, preventing both sporadic cases and outbreaks.

Test the Water

To prevent the growth of legionella, it’s important to perform regular water testing. In cases of an outbreak, additional follow-up testing may be necessary to ensure sustained suppression. Typically, health departments require post-remediation water sampling to be done biweekly for a period of 3 months after treatment, followed by monthly tests for another 3 months. However, the schedule may need to be adjusted based on test results. If there’s an increase in the number of Legionella-positive sites or concentration, the testing schedule might need to be extended. Routine testing should be conducted to safeguard against legionella growth.

The George Bochanis Injury Law Offices was established in 1985. Before opening his office, Mr. Bochanis spent years representing major insurance companies in litigation cases and prior to that was a law clerk to a prominent local district court judge. Our offices have grown from a small one person setting to having its own well known office location on South Ninth Street in Downtown Las Vegas with 15 employees.

Years of Experience: More than 28 years
Nevada Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Nevada State Bar Federal Court of Nevada, 3rd Circuit

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