PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As businesses reopen, could another type of lung infection surface?

“Legionnaires’ disease is a disease that affects the lungs, that is usually inhaled (via) very small aerosolized water droplets,” says Juliet Ferrelli, MS, MT(ASCP), CIC, FAPIC and network director of infection prevention at Allegheny Health Network.

While the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease exists in water and nature, these Legionella can multiply in man-made water systems such as plumbing and air conditioning, especially if the water within has been stagnant for 2-3 weeks.

“Legionella likes to be in warmer water. There’s not cold water running through there, so you get a buildup of the bacteria,” Ferrelli said.

Legionnaires’ disease during a coronavirus pandemic could be confounding. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea — some of the same symptoms of coronavirus.

But antibiotics are highly effective for Legionnaires’ disease.

“Anyone can acquire it if it just happens to be in a large amount in the water that you’re exposed to,” says Ferrelli.

Outbreaks have occurred, for instance, during construction reopening.

“Whole sections of buildings being closed for renovation and construction, and then you go to turn things back on. They weren’t properly flushed, and then that organism, that Legionella, can get into other parts of the building,” Ferrelli said.

So before reopening, flush those pipes and spouts for at least 30 minutes.

After the pipes are flushed, you may want to consider testing the water for Legionella.

Dr. Maria Simbra