Pontiac fever, Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
WHAT IS PONTIAC FEVER?
Pontiac fever is a mild form of legionellosis or legionnaire’s disease. Unlike legionnaires’ disease, it does not turn into pneumopathy and is not life-threatening. It is caused by the same family of bacteria: Legionella. It has an incubation period of one or two days. The infection heals spontaneously in 2 to 5 days without treatment.
The risks of contracting legionellosis rather than its mild form are still poorly established. They could depend on 3 factors:
– the virulence of the bacteria responsible,
– the length of exposure at the point of contamination,
– the person’s immune status and the presence or absence of aggravating factors (smoking, diabetes, respiratory disease, etc.)
WHY IS IT SO CLALLED?
Pontiac fever was first diagnosed in 1968 in the United States, in Pontiac, a small industrial town in Michigan that gave it its name. The people affected appeared to all have in common that they worked or had visited the town’s health centre. It wasn’t until 1976, when Legionnaire’s disease was discovered, that health authorities were able to link the two diseases and identify Legionella as the responsible bacteria.
HOW DO YOU CONTRACT THE DISEASE?
Infection occurs through breathing in aerosolized contaminated water. Microdroplets invisible to the naked eye can be infested with Legionella. Naturally present in the environment, these bacteria grow particularly quickly in water with a temperature between 25 and 45°C. Artificial water systems are therefore the main source of contamination.
They can be found in hot water installations (water heaters, taps, showers, etc.).); air conditioning systems in buildings (individual houses, offices, hotels); air cooling towers (ART) in factories; spas, jacuzzis; public and decorative fountains; misters; air humidifiers; wastewater treatment plants; or even some medical devices for the treatment of sleep apnea or dental care.
Pontiac fever is not contagious.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Pontiac fever is characterized by flu-like symptoms such as : severe tiredness (asthenia), nausea, headache, high fever, dry cough and muscle aches called myalgia.
In some cases, chest pain, breathing difficulties (or dyspnea), eye redness with photophobia, or gastrointestinal disoreders such as diarrhea and vomiting may be observed.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE PONTIAC FEVER?
Due to its mild nature, Pontiac fever is rarely diagnosed. The risk of contamination is therefore most likely underestimated.
However, a microbiological examination is useful. It helps to distinguish the disease from influenza and to precisely identify the bacteria responsible. Several methods exist: urine tests, serological tests, or the culture of lung sputum samples.
HOW TO PRESVENT THE DISEASE?
As for legionellosis, there is no vaccine or preventive treatment to protect people against Pontiac fever. However, it is possible to limit the risk of catching the disease with a proper maintenance of the possible sources of infection.
A few simple reflexes can help:
– make sure the water system is flowing properly and avoid stagnation;
– adapt the maintenance to the quality of the water and the type of installation in order to prevent scaling and corrosion of the system;
– control the temperature of the hot water system;
– carry out frequent self-checks.
Carrying out regular self-checking tests limits the risk and enables rapid action in the event of contamination of the network. Simple, quick and reliable solutions exist. Cheap and innovative, these tests can be carried out in full autonomy, on site or at home.
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