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May 2, 1980

My Name Is Legionella

JAMA. 1980;243(17):1747. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300430049026

Unlike wool-sorter's disease, coal miners' disease, or chicken plucker's disease, Legionnaires' disease is not even remotely occupation related. The name owes its origin to a constellation of events, which are of interest mainly because they illustrate that disease can still influence, albeit on a miniature scale, the course of history. Bubonic plague, cholera, malaria, and other pandemic diseases have decimated armies, devastated cities, and toppled empires. Legionnaires' disease, which struck with dramatic suddenness in the summer of 1976, did none of these. It did, however, cause a landmark hotel to close its doors, a great city to lose some of its attractiveness for tourists and conventioneers, and a rational, stable society to indulge in wild rumors and speculations. Fortunately, much of the mystery surrounding the disease was dispelled within a relatively short time. In the spring of 1977 its mode of spread was clarified, its treatment was established, and its