UW-Whitewater student could have Legionnaires' disease - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UW-Whitewater student could have Legionnaires' disease


Whitewater (WKOW) -- UW-Whitewater says there's no reason for students and parents to panic about a possible case of Legionnaires' disease on campus.

That's a rare type of lung infection.  The Walworth County health department informed the school one of its students had been taken to Mercy Hospital in Janesville with symptons for the disease.

"It's an isolated case and as long as it's an isolated case, public health does not consider this an outbreak," said Ruth Swisher, UW-Whitewater Health Services Director.

The health department asked the university to be on the look out for other students showing symptons.

"We're looking for is a fever, a high fever, 103, 104, 105 in that range, having body aches, head aches, being aware if they were to develop any pneumonia. That would a person in a suspicious area where further testing would be done," said Swisher.

Swisher says they don't expect to find any other students with Legionnaires' diseaese. It cannot be spread person to person and it is extremely rare. UW-Whitewater has never had a case before.

"It is transmitted by inhaling, breathing in, aerosolized water that has the legionella bacteria in that water," explained Swisher.

The bacteria that causes the disease is actually somewhat common. Swisher said "it's a bacterium that is found throughout nature. It's found outdoors, in streams, and in other water supplies."

According to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, Legionnaires' disease usually affects middle-aged adults who smoke or suffer from chronic lung problems. Fatality rates can be as high as 30 percent.

Health officials cannot comment on the university students conditions because of HIPAA laws.

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