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N Engl J Med. 1980 Feb 14;302(7):365-70.

An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease associated with a contaminated air-conditioning cooling tower.


In August and September 1978, an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease occurred in Memphis, Tennessee. Of the 44 ill, 39 had been either patients, employees, visitors, or passers-by at one Memphis hospital (Hospital A) during the 10 days before. Assuming an incubation period of between two and 10 days, the onset of cases correlated precisely with the use of Hospital A's auxiliary air-conditioning cooling tower. L. pneumophila was recovered from two samples of water from the tower. Infection appeared to have occurred both outside and within the hospital. A significant association was demonstrated between acquisition of Legionnaires' disease and prior hospitalization in those areas of Hospital A that received ventilating air from air intakes near the auxiliary cooling tower. Tracer-smoke studies indicated that contaminated aerosols from the tower could easily reach these air intakes, as well as the street below, where four passers-by had been before they contracted Legionnaires' disease. This represents a common-source outbreak in which the source of L. pneumophila infection and airborne transmission were identified.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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