JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Vital Signs: Health Care-Associated Legionnaires' Disease Surveillance Data from 20 States and a Large Metropolitan Area - United States, 2015.

BACKGROUND: Legionnaires' disease, a severe pneumonia, is typically acquired through inhalation of aerosolized water containing Legionella bacteria. Legionella can grow in the complex water systems of buildings, including health care facilities. Effective water management programs could prevent the growth of Legionella in building water systems.

METHODS: Using national surveillance data, Legionnaires' disease cases were characterized from the 21 jurisdictions (20 U.S. states and one large metropolitan area) that reported exposure information for ≥90% of 2015 Legionella infections. An assessment of whether cases were health care-associated was completed; definite health care association was defined as hospitalization or long-term care facility residence for the entire 10 days preceding symptom onset, and possible association was defined as any exposure to a health care facility for a portion of the 10 days preceding symptom onset. All other Legionnaires' disease cases were considered unrelated to health care.

RESULTS: A total of 2,809 confirmed Legionnaires' disease cases were reported from the 21 jurisdictions, including 85 (3%) definite and 468 (17%) possible health care-associated cases. Among the 21 jurisdictions, 16 (76%) reported 1-21 definite health care-associated cases per jurisdiction. Among definite health care-associated cases, the majority (75, 88%) occurred in persons aged ≥60 years, and exposures occurred at 72 facilities (15 hospitals and 57 long-term care facilities). The case fatality rate was 25% for definite and 10% for possible health care-associated Legionnaires' disease.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH PRACTICE: Exposure to Legionella from health care facility water systems can result in Legionnaires' disease. The high case fatality rate of health care-associated Legionnaires' disease highlights the importance of case prevention and response activities, including implementation of effective water management programs and timely case identification.

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