Legionella infection - Infectious diseases in oral care practice
Legionella infection is not transmitted from person to person, but can be sustained in oral care by inhaling contaminated aerosol. This is a mist of miniscule (invisible (!)) Water droplets, which are so small that they can remain floating for a long time. The responsible pathogen comes from the biofilm, a slimy protein layer that is located on the inside of the plastic unit water pipes. During spray formation, bacteria from this biofilm, together with tiny water droplets, are released into the air and form an infectious aerosol that can remain suspended in the air for at least half an hour around the treatment chair.
The most notorious pathogen from such a biofilm is the Legionella pneumophila, which can penetrate into the deep alveoli by inhalation and trigger an inflammatory response. 90% of people who are infected with this bacterium develop symptoms. In the lung, the bacterium multiplies and as a result flu-like symptoms with a high fever develop within one to two days. Usually patients also complain of headaches, confusion, muscle pain and diarrhea. The condition heals without treatment. Usually the patients are recovered within a week. Most patients think they have had flu; the correct diagnosis has not been made. In a small number of cases, Legionnaires develop in patients with reduced resistance. In that case, serious complaints develop after two to ten days. In addition to severe pneumonia, serious functional disorders of the kidney and liver can occur and can be fatal. Treatment should then consist of the rapid administration of antibiotics. After healing, a remarkably large number of patients continue to suffer from fatigue, shortness of breath and muscle pain for years. This phenomenon is still misunderstood.