Cooling tower outbreaks in the news. What is the explanation?

On your website I read that 79% of survivors in one study suffered neuromuscular symptoms. I am experiencing chronic pain in my elbows and knees that started fairly suddenly 3 years ago which have been treated with steroids and anti-inflammatories with little success. I haven’t been diagnosed or treated for legionnaires disease but have some concerns. I also work around a large 5 cell cooling tower and am inside the tower cleaning it once per year. Can a person get legionnaires and get well without specific treatment? If that is the case and, by chance, I were suffering effects from it, can it still be diagnosed? Would it eventually go away on its own? Is there any treatment? Thank you for any information on this.

As you know from our website, we do not believe that cooling towers play a notable role in Legionnaires’ disease. And, in our FAQ, we note that a CDC survey of cooling tower workers showed no evidence that these workers had any evidence of Legionnaires’ disease as measured by a blood test for legionella antibodies as compared to non-cooling tower workers. So, you would not be at risk for Legionnaires’ disease based on your profession.

Patients with Legionnaires’ disease can recover without antibiotics if the disease is mild and they are generally healthy. However, those that had neuromuscular symptoms in the study from the Netherlands had lung infection (pneumonia) with Legionella. However, joint pains are common and Legionnaires’ disease is not. So, the chances that Legionnaires’ disease precipitated your pains is highly unlikely. The treatment is the same for both: a period of rest followed by exercise and antinflammatory medicines. I assume that you have undergone a thorough medical examination since a number of infections and other illnesses can precipitate arthritis symptoms. Good luck.