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Pontiac Fever

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What is Pontiac fever?

Pontiac fever is a flu-like condition caused by Legionella bacteria.

How do Legionella bacteria spread?

You may become infected when you breathe in steam or water droplets filled with Legionella bacteria. The bacteria grow in warm water and are more commonly found in the following:

  • Air conditioning systems and cooling towers of large buildings
  • Hot water tanks
  • Humidifiers and mechanical ventilators
  • Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and thermal 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?

  • Dry cough or sore throat
  • Fever, chills, or muscle pain
  • Fatigue and trouble falling asleep
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Diarrhea, upset stomach, and no appetite for food
  • Pain or tightness in your chest
  • Problems thinking clearly

How is Pontiac fever diagnosed?

Tell your healthcare provider if you have traveled recently or been in a hot tub or other water source. Tell him if you recently had pipes or plumbing repaired at work or in your home. The water sources at work or in your home may need to be tested. You may need any of the following:

  • Urine tests are done to check for Legionella proteins.
  • Blood tests may be done to check for Legionella bacteria.
  • A sputum test can show if you have Legionella bacteria in your saliva.

How is Pontiac Fever treated?

Pontiac fever will often go away without treatment. You may be given antibiotic medicine to kill the Legionella bacteria.

How can I prevent Pontiac fever?

Have your air conditioning system, hot tub, or water tanks cleaned often. Ask which cleaning fluid you should use to kill Legionella bacteria.

Call your local emergency number (911 in US) if:

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath or chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have shaking chills and a fever.
  • You have very dry skin, dry mouth and tongue, or feel very thirsty.
  • Someone in your home or workplace has signs or symptoms of Pontiac fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.