The Vermont Health Department is investigating a cluster of patients who tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease. Five patients who reside in Franklin or Grand Isle county tested positive for Legionella in August. Health officials say there is no known common source of exposure among the five patients, although all of them spent time in Franklin County during their incubation periods. Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial pneumonia spread by inhaling droplets of contaminated water. It can be fatal. Signs and symptoms can include cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache and fever. Most people get sick within 10 days of exposure, though the incubation period can be as long as 14 days. Back in 1977, just one year after the bacteria was first discovered, there was a major outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at what was then called the Medical Center Hospital in Burlington. More than 50 people were sickened and 17 died. The outbreak was traced back to the air conditioning system on the hospital campus.
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