Legionnaires' disease usually develops two to 10 days after exposure to legionella bacteria. It frequently begins with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever that may be 104 F (40 C) or higher

By the second or third day, you'll develop other signs and symptoms that may include:

  • Cough, which may bring up mucus and sometimes blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Confusion or other mental changes

Although Legionnaires' disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and in other parts of the body, including the heart.

A mild form of Legionnaires' disease — known as Pontiac fever — may produce signs and symptoms including fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn't infect your lungs, and symptoms usually clear within two to five days.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you think you've been exposed to legionella bacteria. Diagnosing and treating Legionnaires' disease as soon as possible can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications. For people at high risk, prompt treatment is critical.

Jan. 02, 2014