[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
June 19, 1981

Epidemic Legionnaires' Disease: Airborne Transmission Down a Chimney

Author Affiliations

From the Bacterial Diseases Division, Bureau of Epidemiology, Center for Disease Control, Atlanta (Drs Band, Skaliy, and Fraser, Mr Mallison, Mr Greenberg, and Ms Hayes), and the Wisconsin State Division of Health, Madison (Dr Davis, Mr LaVenture, Mr Weiss, and Ms Schell).

JAMA. 1981;245(23):2404-2407. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310480020018

Between June 18 and July 9, 1979, Legionnaires' disease (LD) developed in 13 persons who had visited a hotel complex in Wisconsin. All had visited the part of the hotel that contains the restaurants and meeting rooms (building A). Legionnaires' disease occurred in 1% who had been exclusively in the meeting rooms and in 0.1% who had eaten only at the hotel restaurants. Furthermore, 1.5% exposed to meeting room 1 and none of those exposed only to the other meeting rooms had LD. Legionella pneumophila was isolated from water in the cooling tower on top of building A. Located within 5 m downwind of the cooling-tower exhaust, a chimney with an open damper allowed cooling-tower exhaust (as demonstrated by air tracer studies) to enter meeting room 1 via the fireplace. Although cases did not occur after the cooling-tower water was treated by continuous hyperchlorination and the chimney was sealed, a seven-day lag occurred between treatment and elimination of the organism from the tower water.

(JAMA 1981;245:2404-2407)