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Pontiac Fever

What is Pontiac fever?

Pontiac fever is a flu-like condition caused by Legionella germs. Legionella germs are usually found in different water sources. Pontiac fever often occurs in outbreaks. Outbreaks happen when people have been in the same place, and become ill at almost the same time. With Pontiac fever, your symptoms may decrease or disappear in 2 to 5 days, even without treatment.

How does Pontiac fever spread?

You may become infected when you breathe in steam or water droplets filled with Legionella and other germs. You may also get Legionella germs by choking on infected liquids and foods. Examples of foods are pureed (blended) or tube feedings mixed with infected water. Pontiac fever cannot be passed on from one person to another. The germs usually grow in places with warm water which includes any of the following:

  • Air-conditioning systems and cooling towers of large buildings.

  • Hot water tanks.

  • Humidifiers and mechanical ventilators (breathing machines).

  • Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and thermal (heated) pools.

  • Large plumbing systems, and bathroom shower heads.

  • Water fountains, ice machines, and vegetable misters.

  • Whirlpool spas and hot tubs.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pontiac fever?

Signs and symptoms of Pontiac fever usually appear 12 to 36 hours after you breathe in the germs. Not every person who breathes in Legionella germs will get Pontiac fever. Those who do get sick may have any of the following:

  • Dry cough or sore throat.

  • Fever, chills or shaking, or muscle pain.

  • Feeling tired most of the time.

  • Headaches and dizziness.

  • Loose watery stools, upset stomach, and no appetite for food.

  • Pain or tightness in your chest.

  • Problems thinking clearly and trouble falling asleep.

How is Pontiac fever diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask what symptoms you have and how bad they are. He may ask which places or countries you have visited recently. He may also ask if you have visited spas or use hot tubs often. Tell him if anyone in your home or workplace has a similar condition. Tell him if you recently had pipes or plumbing repaired at work or in your home. Water sources at work or in your home may need to be tested for germs. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Urine sample: For this test you need to urinate into a small container. You will be given instructions on how to clean your genital area before you urinate. Do not touch the inside of the cup. Follow instructions on where to place the cup of urine when you are done.

How is Pontiac fever treated?

There is no specific treatment for Pontiac fever. The condition will usually go away on its own. Most people will get well, and their signs and symptoms may decrease and disappear completely. Some people may still feel tired, or have problems thinking clearly for a few months after feeling better. Ask your caregiver if you have any questions or concerns about your condition and treatment.

How can I prevent Pontiac fever?

Pontiac fever may be prevented by regularly cleaning the places where the germs may grow. You may need to use a special cleaning fluid to kill the germs that cause Pontiac fever. Ask your caregiver for more information on what cleaning fluids to use. You may also do the following:

  • Have your air-conditioning system, hot tubs, or water tanks cleaned often.

  • Tell your caregiver if you think someone you work or live with may have Pontiac fever.

When should I call my caregiver?

Call your caregiver if:

  • You have shaking chills and a fever.

  • Someone in your home or workplace has similar signs and symptoms.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, treatment, or care.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have very dry skin, dry mouth and tongue, or feel very thirsty.

  • Your symptoms become worse.

Where can I find more information?

Contact the following for more information:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 404 - 6393311
    Phone: 1- 800 - 3113435
    Web Address: http://www.cdc.gov

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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