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LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – The Alabama Department of Public Health is studying a recent increase in the number of cases of Legionella pneumonia in Florence.

According to the health department, there are usually about four of these cases per year. However, two patients had Legionella during the first week of October, and the health department contacted local hospitals and doctors and learned of 10 more cases, and five other possible cases.

There’s no word yet on the source of the germ. The health department is working with doctors and hospitals, and talking with the patients who had Legionella to try to see if they can pin down the source.

“We have an excellent medical community in northwest Alabama,” said Dr. Karen Landers, Assistant State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health. “Out of an abundance of caution, we want to look into this carefully to be sure that we raise awareness to be checking for this illness and recommend any actions to reduce environmental risks.”

Legionella is not spread person-to-person. People contract Legionella pneumonia by breathing the germ in a mist or vapor. Many healthy people breathe it and do not become sick, but others are more at risk, including those older than 50, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung problems, and those with weakened immune systems.

Legionella thrives in warm water. It can be found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems and decorative fountains.