Has the Legionnaire’s disease and its media coverage had any adverse social impact like did AIDS in the first few years of its discovery and then was understood better?
The impact of the lay media has been both positive and negative.
Negative: Bad publicity to a hospital or organization can result because the primary source is the drinking water; cooling towers or air conditioners are overemphasized by the authorities since the public is more alarmed by drinking water sources than by localized sources such as cooling towers. The truth can bring panic and a flurry of lawsuits.
So, hospitals often do not want to know about Legionella in their drinking water. Nor do public health agencies want to push this issue because of the inflammatory nature of the truth. On the other hand, we believe that knowledge about the hospital drinking water can allow preventive measures to be taken by the hospital and alerting the MDs such that the disease can be prevented or treated earlier.
Positive: Revelations by the lay media have stimulated many hospitals to take preventive measures. The best example is the 1998 TV exposè by New York City Fox news. Their reporters went into NYC hospitals and cultured legionella from the drinking water of most hospitals. Unbeknownst to the TV reporters is that in one hospital that was culture-negative in their report, Legionnaires’ disease had been discovered in the patients and the hospital water supply was the source.