PONTIAC, Mich. -

Are you taking the right steps to protect yourself from Legionnaires' Disease?

The Michigan Department of Community Health has reported that nearby counties have recently seen an increase in cases of the disease. So far, 35 cases have been reported across the Metro-Detroit area. They are conducting investigations to determine common sources of exposure. Meanwhile, the Oakland County Health division is strongly advising that residents take all necessary steps to prevent the disease, which is a respiratory infection caused by bacteria called Legionella. Experts suggest that preventative measures can be taken by routinely cleaning and maintaining devices that produce water mist. These may include air conditioners, cooling condensers, cooling tower units, whirlpools, spas, room humidifiers, and outdoor misting systems.

“These bacteria live best in warm water.  When these devices are not properly maintained or cleaned, the bacteria can grow and be expelled in the air when the device is turned back on,” said George J. Miller, Jr., director of Oakland County Health and Human Services. “Keeping Legionella bacteria from growing in water is the key to preventing infection."

Legionniares disease is an uncommon respiratory infection, but if developed, it can turn into pneumonia. It occurs after mist is inhaled from any water source containing Legionella. The disease cannot be transmitted from person to person, and it is treatable with antibiotics. Symptoms include loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, and headache. Within a day of infection, an affected person may have a rising fever with chills. Temperatures often reach 102-105 degrees Fahrenheit. Other common symptoms include Pneumonia, a non-productive cough, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. These will begin 2-14 days after exposure and usually average 5-6 days.

For more information about Legionnaires' disease, visit oakgov.com/health, or call Nurse on Call at 248-858-1406.

Before use, all cooling systems should be regularly maintained and cleaned. The Health Division recommends the following preventative measures:

-Condensate pans for home air conditioners and room humidifiers should be checked at least weekly for drainage obstructions. If the pan is not draining properly, cleaning the blockage and pan with a brush and a sanitizing solution (1 teaspoon of bleach in one gallon of water). Make sure to clean outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

-Cooling towers should always be drained when not in use. This inhibits bacteria breeding environments.

-Always leave disinfection and maintenance of water-cooled air handling equipment to trained experts. It should be mechanically cleaned.