22 cases of Legionnaire’s disease, a virus caused by the presence of legionella bacterium, have been identified in Union County, New Jersey. The cases were discovered between March 8th and May 13th. The source of the outbreak has still not been discovered, but the risk posed to visitors and residents of Union is thought to be very minimal. The Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to find the root cause.

Luckily, the disease is not transferable from person to person and can only be contacted from the source of the bacterium. Legionella is normally found in contaminated water systems like outdoor fountains and large air-conditioning units. The virus cannot survive in personal, home air-conditioning units, and drinking water. People most susceptible to Legionnaire’s disease are the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

New Jersey’s Department of Health notes that 250 to 350 cases of the disease typically take place in the state per year. The fatality rate of the disease is usually 10 to 15%. So while not terribly uncommon, it has been unusual to have so many cases arise from a centralized source. While contraction of the disease is unlikely, individuals who have visited Union County and exhibit severe, upper respiratory symptoms should seek advice from a medical professional.

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