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Clin Infect Dis. 1996 Feb;22(2):257-61.

Community outbreak of Legionnaires' disease: an investigation confirming the potential for cooling towers to transmit Legionella species.

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  • 1Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.


In August and September 1993, we investigated an outbreak of legionnaires' disease in Fall River, Massachusetts, that involved 11 persons; the attack rate was highest in Flint, a community of Fall River. All cases were infected with Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1 (Lp-1). A case-control study revealed that cases were more likely than matched controls to have visited sites in neighborhood A of Flint. Environmental sampling in Flint found that four of nine aerosol-producing devices sampled contained legionellae; only two, conjoined cooling towers on building A, contained Lp-1. Three independent methods of subtyping--monoclonal antibody subtyping, arbitrary primer polymerase chain reaction, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis--revealed that Lp-1 isolates from three cases with culture-positive legionnaires' disease matched those from the cooling towers on building A. Water samples from the homes of cases with culture-positive legionnaires' disease contained no legionellae. The results of this epidemiologic and laboratory investigation indicate that the cooling towers on building A were the source of the outbreak of legionnaires' disease and confirm the importance of cooling towers in the transmission of legionnaires' disease.

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