Legionnaires' disease on the rise nationwide

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they found the legionella bacteria in most regions of the country.

The bacteria was mostly unknown before a 1976 outbreak that claimed 29 lives, and now, the legionella bacteria can be found almost anywhere.

A new CDC report tested 196 cooling towers across the country, revealing that 84 percent tested positive for legionella DNA.

"That statistic is not surprising,” said Richard Danila, MDH Deputy State Epidemiologist. “Legionella bacteria are ubiquitous in the environment. You can find them in streams and rivers and in man-made systems like water towers."

It's contaminated water cooling towers that health officials blame for the Hopkins outbreak that sickened more than two dozen.

Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by inhaling water that contains the legionella bacteria, which causes symptoms such as coughing, headache and fatigue.

“Really what needs to happen is you need to have stagnant water, warm water and usually a bio film - slime of some sort that allows growth of that legionella," Danila said.

Nationwide, Legionnaires’ cases have risen by a staggering 286 percent since the year 2000.