Much of the world health news of late centers on the outbreak of ebola in Africa. As a result, some may wonder, what is the difference between Legionnaires’ disease and the Ebola virus?
Ebola is a deadly virus (not a bacterial infection), and one that is extremely difficult to treat. And because the virus is contracted through human-to-human contact, it is very difficult to prevent where an outbreak occurs.
The World Health Organization (The WHO) estimates that “As of 27 August 2014, the cumulative number of Ebola cases in the affected countries stands at more than 3000, with over 1400 deaths, making this the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded.”
In comparison The WHO has estimated that between 1995 and 2005, over 32,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease and more than 600 outbreaks were reported to the European Working Group for Legionella Infections. The data on Legionella are limited in developing countries; and Legionella-related illnesses are likely under-diagnosed worldwide.
Prevention of Ebola Vs. Legionnaires’ Disease
While other diseases, like legionnaires disease have not reached such epidemic fear as that of ebola, the causes of these two deadly diseases are significant in their prevention. While experts understand how one contracts ebola, the prevention is difficult. However, in the case of Legionella or Legionnaires disease, The WHO has information and manuals on how to prevent the disease in a handbook: LEGIONELLA AND THE PREVENTION OF LEGIONELLOSIS.
The prevention comparison is striking. The general cause of an outbreak of legionnaires disease is man made and caused by neglect of water borne sources. Hot tubs, pools, ice machines, cooling towers, misting units, and other sources are a man made condition that can be controlled.
Legionnaires and Ebola Outbreaks
Certainly an ebola outbreak in the United States or anywhere is catastrophic, but as to legionnaires disease a similar outbreak can be comparably tragic.
The original outbreak for which the name is derived occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during a 1976 convention of American Legion members. A total of 221 were diagnosed, and 34 died. Since that time many other similar outbreaks have occurred throughout the world: March 1999 in the Netherlands in Bovenkarspel – 318 people became ill and at least 32 people died; in July 2001 in Murcia, Spain – more than 800 suspected cases were recorded and 449 were confirmed, and six died; and in Canada in September, 2005 – 127 residents of a nursing home became ill, and within a week, 21 of the residents had died.
Of all the tragic results of these diseases, legionnaires is preventable through proper and safe water treatment and maintenance. While the ebola crisis continues, so does current cases of legionnaires – Catalonia, Spain 2014 – 8 people have died; Morgantown, North Carolina infections at the J. Iverson Riddle Developmental center; and 2014 in Collie, Australia a mother died after she contracted legionella from potting soil while gardening.
Treatment of Legionnaires’ Disease
The best method of treatment of legionnaires disease is through education and prevention. Protecting water sources through proper treatment can eliminate legionella.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease each year. However, it is believed that many infections are not diagnosed or reported, so this number is likely much higher.
Ebola has now become a household name and is feared worldwide. Legionnaires is similarly fatal, and is more likely to be contracted across the world. Unlike the ebola human-to human-contact, legionnaires is not contagious; however, those with the management over water sources listed above can best prevent any outbreak through human-to-human education.