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MN officials confirm 5 Legionnaires' disease cases in Hopkins

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State health officials have confirmed five cases of Legionnaires' disease in people who live or work in Hopkins and are investigating the source of the outbreak.

Of those who became ill between Aug. 4 and Sept. 1, three are currently hospitalized, and two others were hospitalized and have recovered, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday. The patients are all over the age of 50.

Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia usually caused by infection, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's spread by inhaling fine spray from water sources containing Legionella bacteria. Most people exposed to Legionella don't develop Legionnaires' disease

It is not spread person to person and you cannot get it by consuming water, the state Health Department noted. People over the age of 50, smokers, or those with weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk, the agency added.

Outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease have been linked to air-conditioning cooling towers, decorative fountains and plumbing systems. The bacteria were discovered after a 1976 outbreak among people who went to an American Legion convention in Philadelphia. 

"Minnesota typically sees 50 to 60 cases of Legionellosis each year. More than 60 cases have been reported in the state so far this year, mirroring a national increase in cases in 2016. No other clusters have been reported in Minnesota this year," the department said.

Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include muscle aches, chills, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite and coughing. A high fever, pneumonia and abdominal pain and diarrhea can follow.