PA Senate: Co-sponsorship Memo – Legionnaires’ Disease Prevention

Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 – 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 2, 2020 04:02 PM
From: Senator Wayne D. Fontana
To: All Senate members
Subject: Legionnaires’ Disease Prevention


As society starts to return to the workplace, one aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic many are not talking about is the increase risk of the legionella bacteria growing in buildings.  Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria which a person can contract by breathing in small droplets of water containing the bacteria.  These droplets often come from air conditioning units for buildings, cooling misters, decorative fountains, and plumbing systems.  Outbreaks are most commonly associated with buildings that have complex water systems like those found in large office buildings, hotels, hospitals, long-term care facilities, casinos and cruise ships.  Often times, what allows this bacteria to start to grow is an extended period of dormancy or inactivity in such dwellings as well as warm, humid, wet weather.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, most people exposed to the Legionella bacteria do not become ill or develop Legionnaires’ disease.  However, people older than 50 and those with certain risk factors including a history of smoking or a weakened immune system are more susceptible to the disease.  Although Legionnaires’ disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics, about one in 10 people who get the disease will die from the infection.


For this reason I plan on reintroduce a version of SB 1285 from last session that would require the owners and operators of certain buildings to take actions in order to prevent and control the Legionella bacteria.  My bill would be similar to one being considered by the New Jersey General Assembly.


Since 2000, the number of reported legionellosis cases has been increasing in both Pennsylvania and the United States overall.  The commonwealth had exceptionally high case counts in 2017, 2018, and 2019.  Although the number of legionellosis cases has been low since COVID-19 arrived here, the expectation is that the number of cases will begin to increase imminently as businesses begin to reopen.  Unlike the coronavirus, experts know how to prevent Legionnaires’ disease and I hope you will join me in averting a potential outbreak of this bacteria and disease.