As part of its continuing investigation of a cluster of Legionella cases in the greater Bangor area, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sampled water in the Orono-Veazie Water District in July, 2019.
Maine CDC found detectable levels of Legionella bacteria at two locations in this water district. Maine CDC worked closely with the water district to address this by increasing chlorine levels in the system. Follow-up testing is also being performed.
Customers of the Orono-Veazie Water District may smell chlorine in their water. This increased level of chlorine is not harmful and the water remains safe to drink and use. Residents in the area do not need to take any action in response to the test results or higher chlorine levels.
At this time, Maine CDC has not determined whether the detectable levels of Legionella may be related to any of the previously reported cases of Legionnaires' disease in the area. Maine CDC continues to actively investigate to try to identify a common exposure among the cases or determine whether they are coincidental. No additional cases have been identified since the July 12 announcement of this investigation.
Legionella is a type of bacteria found naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams. It can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made building water systems like sinks, cooling towers, hot tubs, fountains, and large plumbing systems. Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia, may result when people breathe in small droplets of water that contain the bacteria. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches.
Particularly in light of high temperatures, Maine CDC urges residents not to avoid drinking water from this water district, as Legionella bacteria are not transmitted through the act of drinking water.
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. Those at increased risk of getting sick are people 50 years and older; current or former smokers; people with a chronic lung disease, weak immune systems, or cancer; and people with other underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.
There were almost 7,500 cases of Legionnaires' disease in the United States in 2017. Last year, there were 33 cases of Legionnaires' disease in Maine. Because it is underdiagnosed, these numbers may underestimate the true incidence.
Maine CDC will continue to provide updates on this investigation as more information becomes available.
For more information on Legionella visit:
- MaineCDC's webpage: www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/airborne/legionellosis.shtml
- Federal CDC's webpage: www.cdc.gov/legionella/about/index.html