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Cooling Towers Spread Legionnaire's

The Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a report stating that cooling towers holding contaminated community water can lead to serious outbreaks of Legionnaire's disease, a pneumonia like illness that can be fatal. The bacteria causing the disease are spread by water or air conditioning systems. More than 1,000 cases a year are reported to the CDC but health officials say most cases are not diagnosed and that about 25,000 people a year fall ill from it.

One outbreak in a Michigan state prison earlier this year affected 17 people, killing one. Investigating that case and several others in civilian communities, health officials concluded that cooling towers were the source of the contamination. Cooling towers had been previously identified as possible transmission routes but this is the first time they were identified with actual outbreaks of Legionnaire's disease. The CDC is now developing guidelines for the prevention of Legionnaire's disease, including improved maintenance of cooling towers. Many prisons, especially those in rural areas, are supplied by water cooling towers.

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