By Julian Wemmie
Focus Topic (History)
Legionnaire’s disease has existed since World War II, but only fairly recently has it been discovered. The outbreak that brought it to attention and to scientists was in only July of 1976.
It was the bicentennial of the United States, at the hometown of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia. Over 2,000 American Legionnaire’s were meeting at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, celebrating. Since Legionella Pneumophila likes warm, moist places (AC’s use hot water to transfer heat from the air), the air conditioner was a great place to be. And it happen to be air conditioning a room filled with over 2,000 people.
182 people eventually became infected, 147 required hospitalization, and 29 died. At the time, it was thought to of “Apparent heart attacks,” but upon closer inspection it was found to be because of a mysterious pneumonia.
Scientists at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) started working on it right away. They put Doctor Joseph McDade in charge of the whole operation.
After six months of research, McDade still could not find the culprit. They were having trouble isolating it, until finally in 1977 they succeeded. McDade injected blood with the pneumonia into different chicken eggs. When the eggs hatched, they found that the chicks were infected. With the infected chicks, McDade managed to isolate the bacteria. He named it Legionella Pneumophila. McDade and his team, also found that the usual antibiotic they use for pneumonia, didn’t affect Legionnaire’s disease.
Legionnaire’s disease still affects people today, with over 40 outbreaks since 1976. There have been two outbreaks in 2014. They both were near Portugal and had over ten deaths. The outbreak in Philadelphia still holds the record for highest death rate.
Boucher, Jack E. Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia. Digital image. Wikipedia. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
CDC. Centers for Disease Control medical technologist George Gorman (left) and Jim Feeley, examining culture plates upon which the first environmental isolates of Legionella pneumophils had been grown. Digital image. Wikipedia. CDC. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
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