The Lancet reports that an 82-year-old Italian woman has died from Legionnaire’s Disease, which she contracted from water in her dentist’s office. Scientists investigating the case reached their conclusion due in part to the apparent fact that the woman did not leave her home except to visit the dentist during the disease’s incubation period.
Tests revealed the presence of the bacteria that cause Legionnaire’s Disease in a water line in the dentist’s office.
In the U. S., the American Dental Association (ADA) maintains strict guidelines governing the water lines used in dental offices. Those guidelines cover everything from the number of colony-forming bacterial units allowable in dental water supplies (500 per milliliter of water), to the use of a water reservoir isolated from the municipal water supply.
John Molinari, a spokesman on infectious diseases for the ADA, stated that most American dentists follow the guidelines, it is important to remember that contamination can occur if the proper precautions are not taken to prevent it.
The full report can be found here.
Legionnaire’s Disease is a potentially severe respiratory illness caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila. The species thrives in relatively warm, stagnant water; this can include shower heads, air conditioning systems, ornamental fountains, and misting equipment.
Transmission is typically airborne, via an aerosol containing L. pneumophila bacteria. The first known instance of infection occurred at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in 1976, hence the name. The infection was traced to the air conditioning system of the hotel in which the convention took place.
Fatalities are rare with proper treatment.