This year’s flu season has been the worst in 10 years. However, the symptoms of the flu are similar to Legionnaires’ disease. Earlier this month, a woman in Texas was initially diagnosed with the flu later found out she had Legionnaires’ disease. She is the first confirmed case this year.
The Legionella bacteria resides in warm, moist, freshwater environments. Its natural habitat is rivers and streams. However, Legionella is often found in man-made freshwater systems that encompass everyday life. When humans are exposed to Legionella bacteria, the result may be mild with resulting flu-like symptoms. An extreme reaction to Legionella bacteria is Legionnaires’ disease, a form of severe pneumonia with a 5%-10% fatality rate.
Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty has partnered with Praedicat to analyze the emerging risk of Legionella bacteria. It has been ascertained the number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease has grown four times from 2000-2014. Legionella bacteria has been found in air conditioners and cooling towers. The most prevalent exposure setting to Legionella bacteria is in hospitals. This is especially worrisome due to hospitals having a high immunocompromised population. Another location where exposure to Legionella bacteria may occur is hotels. Some have recreational water facilities and drinking water fountains which increase the avenues of exposure. Legionella bacteria has also been found in water treatment facilities.
Legionellosis may strike when least expected. By being aware of its potential risk, the insurance industry can prepare for future outbreaks.
This risk bulletin reviews the current understanding of Legionella bacteria, legionellosis, possible risk exposures, and the potential impacts of the disease for businesses and the insurance industry.