About Legionella (Legionnaires’ Disease or Pontiac Fever)

How is it transmitted?

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella. The bacteria are often found in water and grow best in warm water like hot tubs, hot water tanks, and large plumbing systems. When water sources infected with Legionella are misted, such as a fountain, it may infect susceptible people within close proximity. Legionella bacteria are not spread from person to person.  

Signs and Symptoms

Legionnaires’ disease has similar symptoms to pneumonia so it can be difficult to diagnose. Signs and symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Symptoms usually begin 2-14 days after exposure.


Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics though a hospital stay is common.

If you have reason to believe you have been exposed to Legionnaires’ disease, please call Student Health at 215-746-3535 and select the option to speak with a nurse.


Legionnaires’ disease is prevented through proper maintenance of water systems. Guidelines for appropriate water temperatures and chemical treatment of water for Legionella prevention can be found in ASHRAE Guideline 12-2000. There are no vaccines that can prevent Legionnaires’ disease. If you own or are using a hot tub often, ensure the hot tub has the right disinfectant and pH levels since hot water makes it hard to maintain the disinfectant levels needed to kill the Legionella bacteria.



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(updated 7/30/2015)