FRIDAY, July 7, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- After multiple Legionnaire's disease cases in New York City were reported this month, a global health expert is warning vacationers that summer is prime time for the disease.
"If your summer plans include travel, please be mindful that this disease has been linked to contaminated water supplies in hotels and cruise ships," said Jerry Balentine. He is vice president for medical affairs at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Not only do rising temperatures provide a better habitat for the bacteria, people's hot-weather habits may unwittingly expose them to the germs.
"With more air conditioners being turned on, and beachgoers visiting bodies of water where the bacteria may live naturally, people are more at risk," Balentine said in a college news release.
Legionnaire's is a bacterial infection that sickens about 5,000 Americans every year. About 10 percent of cases are fatal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bacteria grow in warm water environments and can be inhaled in water vapor, the CDC warns. Summer and early fall are high-risk seasons for Legionnaire's disease.
But don't cancel your vacation plans, Balentine said. Instead, "understand the symptoms that may be associated with the disease and seek treatment right away, if necessary," he advised.
Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches and cough. Smokers, people over age 50, patients with compromised immune systems, and those already battling serious illness are most at risk.
There's more about Legionnaire's disease at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.