CDC: Legionnaires Traced to Soil

Friday, September 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) — At least two people in the West are believed to have contracted Legionnaires' disease from potting soil in the first such cases ever reported in the United States, the government said Thursday.

A third case of Legionnaires', involving a California man who died in May, may also have been connected to potting soil, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

A rare strain of bacteria that causes the disease infected two women, one each in Oregon and Washington, in May. Both women had worked with everyday gardening soil within 10 days of their first Legionnaires' symptoms, and the bacterial strain was found in soil they had used, the CDC said.

The strain, Legionella longbeachae, also infected the California man, but government scientists said they could not be sure he contracted it from potting soil.

Potting soil has previously been blamed for outbreaks in Australia and Japan.

The government cautioned that it is too early to question the safety of potting soil or recommend precautions that gardeners can take.

``We still have quite a bit to learn,'' said Michael Martin of the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases. ``We certainly don't understand the risk factors or risk behaviors.''

Legionnaires' disease is a form of pneumonia that was discovered after an outbreak that killed 34 people at a 1976 American Legion convention at a Philadelphia hotel.

It has been traced to water from shower heads, humidifiers, cooling towers and aerosol sprays. Early symptoms include fever, respiratory problems and disorientation.

In Australia, potting soil was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires' in the late 1980s, Martin said.


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