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Health

When Legionnaires’ first showed up 42 years ago, it was a medical mystery

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) laboratorian George Gorman at left, along side Dr. Jim Feeley, while they were examining culture plates, i.e., Petri dishes, upon which the first environmental isolates of Legionella pneumophils had been grown.
Stafford Smith / Center for Disease Control
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Wikimedia Commons
Markel said the growth of the bacteria partially comes down to the rise of air conditioning, saying, "Stagnant water, old pipes — not a good thing."";

Health officials have reported a rise in cases of Legionnaires' disease this summer both nationally and here in Michigan. 

It's been 42 years since the first outbreak of the mystery disease that eventually became known as legionellosis — and it took some serious medical detective work to figure it out.

Dr. Howard Markel, University of Michigan medical historian and PBS contributor, joined Stateside to give us some history on the disease.

Listen above to hear about the mysterious disease's growth during the country's bicentennial, how the case was eventually cracked, and why we're currently seeing a rise in cases of the disease again.  

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or with this RSS link)

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