Legionnaires' Disease discovered in Milwaukee County

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee public health officials say they've discovered a cluster of Legionnaires' Disease in the city.

It's early in the investigation, but the city's health commissioner says there are bacteria in a local water supply that could make you sick. They're working to locate the source. In the meantime, they want you to be aware of the symptoms.

"It's a bacterium. Those that are over 50, those with some underlying health condition can be impacted.  When we look at respiratory illness, it can be acute, atypical and other concerns," said City Health Commissioner Bevan Baker.

So far, there are 18 confirmed cases of Legionnaires' Disease in Milwaukee County. 14 of those cases are in the city of Milwaukee. All of the infected are adults -- and their median age is 62.

Symptoms of Legionnaires' Disease include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headaches. The symptoms are similar to pneumonia -- which is of particular concern to the elderly.

"We want to make certain the public knows that this is not transmittable person-to-person.   So while we know there's clustering localized, we need to find that and that's what we're investigating," said Baker.

Legionnaires' Disease is frequently transmitted in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, plumbing systems and decorative fountains. A Milwaukee Heath Department spokeswoman says it is not transmitted through ingesting or touching water, but rather, breathing in the water.

A water wall at St. Luke's Hospital in Cudahy caused eight people to get sick in March 2010.

Baker says investigators are now scouring the data in their effort to find similarities in the cases.

Health officials say the first case was reported in June. But it wasn't until early July that it was clear they were dealing with a cluster of cases.