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Increase in Legionnaire's Disease Could be Related to Climate Change

Water tower example
Legionella Bacteria is a naturally occurring bacteria but can be found in water cooling towers. (Graphic: CDC)

A twelfth case of Legionnaires' disease was confirmed last week in Chesterfield County by the Virginia Department of Health. Scientists say the increases in bacteria growth could be related to climate change.

Jeremy Hoffman, Chief Scientist of the Science Museum says Virginia has been getting hotter over the last 40 years and those warmer temperatures encourage bacteria growth. That's what's happened in the cooling towers in Northeast Chesterfield where the Legionnaires bacteria has been found.

“By and large Virginia is experiencing more hot and humid weather during the summer months when legionella is the most active.”

But as to why Chesterfield has seen an increase in Legionnaires while other localities have not?

“There’s still a lot of questions to be asked and a lot of answers to be found.”

Hoffman says that unfortunately there’s not a network of gauges and sensors around the region to be able to pinpoint areas where an increase can occur. Readings are only taken at the Richmond Airport.

Ian Stewart/VPM News

The Science Museum of Virginia is a sponsor of VPM

To find more information on Legionella, visit the Centers for Disease Control. 

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Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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