Eight people who have been to Aurora St. Luke's South Shore in Cudahy, WI over the past three to four weeks have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, a form of pneumonia caused by waterborne bacteria. None of the cases has been fatal, although all eight people have been hospitalized for treatment.
Hospital officials are working to notify more than 1,000 people who visited the Cudahy facility between Feb. 24 and March 10 to let them know about the outbreak. People who were in the building during that time and who have symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose or chest pain should contact their doctors and notify them of the possible exposure.
So far, officials have not been able to narrow down the source of the outbreak to a particular area of the building. People contract Legionnaires' disease when they inhale a mist containing a bacterium known as Legionella. The bacteria often spread through air conditioning towers. Other potential sources include showers, medical devices that create aerosols and decorative fountains.
Potential sources have been shut down and will be disinfected or replaced. The disease is not contagious from person to person, so there is no fear of transmission in shopping malls or other crowded areas. The bacteria also cannot be picked up from surfaces. Once a person is exposed it takes between two and 10 days to develop symptoms. The most common treatment is a 10-day course of antibiotics.