Legionnaires' disease on the rise in New England

According to health officials, Legionnaires' disease, a strain of pneumonia, is on the rise in New England this year, though they have yet to determine a reason for the flare up.
The total number of cases confirmed in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine has nearly doubled from last year while many other northeastern states are also showing dramatic increases. There was no increase in states in other parts of the country, Reuters reports.
Maine's Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory on Monday to all state health care providers to watch out for and report cases of the disease after documenting 18 cases so far in 2011, up from 11 in all of 2010.
"This is a spike, and we need to be looking into this and we need to alert people," Stephen Sears, Maine's state epidemiologist, said, according to Reuters.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by inhaling an infectious dose of Legionella bacteria. This bacteria is commonly found in contaminated water in sources such as faucets, showers, whirlpool spas and cooling towers. The illness is named for a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia. Legionnaires' disease causes pneumonia and kills five to 30 percent of patients, hospitalizing 8,000 to 18,000 people every year.

Symptoms can include muscle aches, headaches, cough, chest pain, chills and high fever. The disease can be treated with antibiotics. While Sears has spoken with counterparts in Massachusetts and Connecticut, they have not yet managed to find a reason for the increase.

"We have looked but we haven't found common connections at this point," Sears said, according to Reuters. "We've found nothing that tied the people together epidemiologically."

The Canadian province of Quebec has issued a comparable advisory after a rise in cases there.