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Report: Man Dies of Legionnaire’s Disease

There have been nearly 50 cases of Legionnaire’s disease in Milwaukee County this summer. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that a 56-year-old man from Greenfield died of the disease. The story says Ken Luedke first believed he had a cold. He was rushed to the hospital after his symptoms worsened and he wasn’t able to breathe.

According to the report, Luedke had respiratory failure at the hospital. Doctors induced a coma. After 16 days, when he did not awake, his family had him removed from life support.

Luedke’s family told the Journal Sentinel that he was diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease.

State health officials will not confirm the cause of death, until after the death certificate is finalized. If the disease was responsible for Luedke’s death, he would be the first person to die from the outbreak.

According to the CDC, Legionnaires' disease is caused by a type of bacterium, which can grow in drinking water systems, hot tubs, decorative fountains and cooling towers. It got its name after an outbreak in 1976, which sickened many people attending an American Legion convention in Philadelphia.

The symptoms of the disease are shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headaches. Symptoms typically begin 2-14 days after exposure to the bacteria. The agency says in most cases, antibiotics can successfully treat the disease.

The CDC estimates that 8,000-18,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with Legionnaire’s disease every year.

Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.