Fast facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Legionnaires’ Disease was named after an outbreak in 1976, when more than 200 people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion got sick with pneumonia. Thirty-four died.
• About 5,000 cases of Legionnaires’ Disease reported each year in the United States.
• About one out of every 10 cases of Legionnaires’ is fatal.
• Legionnaires’ is contracted by breathing in a mist that has been contaminated with Legionella bacteria.
• In general, Legionnaires’ is not contagious. However, spreading from person-to-person may be possible in rare cases.
• Legionella is found naturally in fresh water environments, like lakes and streams, but can become a health concern in human-made water systems.
In the past 12 months, four people who work at a Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta have contracted Legionnaires’ disease.
Two cases were confirmed in August. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with a 34-year-old operational engineer with a wife and daughter who was diagnosed with the potentially fatal pneumonia in October 2014 after being relocated to a tunnel under the Marietta facility for work training.
When asked about the cases, the Georgia Department of Public Health responded with a statement saying that the first case of Legionella pneumophila, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease, at Lockheed dates back to December 2015.
"Legionella has been found in water in certain locations throughout the campus," according to the statement. "During an investigation, DPH works with the facility to assess potential sources of contaminated water and to implement measures to eliminate Legionella and prevent future growth of Legionella according to guidance established by the CDC. DPH has recommended testing for and treating water found positive for Legionella at Lockheed Martin."
The statement also said that Lockheed Martin is working with a private company for testing, consulting and remediation.
The other two cases at Lockheed were in May and June. Statewide, the highest recordings of Legionnaires' disease the last 12 months, according to the GDPH, were 17 cases in November.
The company itself released a statement confirming its four cases: "There is no confirmation the employees contracted the disease at their workplace in Marietta. However, as a precautionary measure, we have increased testing of our water to ensure it is safe and implemented the appropriate protocols in our facilities in accordance with public health-recommended guidelines."
Some of those precautions include super heating hot water, making sure chlorine is at appropriate levels in the water system, cleaning or replacing aerators on sinks and regular flushing of the water system.