Dentists Dying of Mystery Lung Disease

The CDC has identified a cluster of lung disease cases among dentists and dental workers who were treated at a Virginia care center. All were diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), “a chronic, progressive lung disease of unknown cause and associated with a poor prognosis.”

Seven of the nine patients have died. According to the CDC, the estimated survival rate after diagnosis is only 3–5 years. “Although IPF has been associated with certain occupations, no published data exist regarding IPF in dentists” so the CDC is anxious to find out the cause:

 A questionnaire was administered to one of the living patients, who reported polishing dental appliances and preparing amalgams and impressions without respiratory protection. Substances used during these tasks contained silica, polyvinyl siloxane, alginate, and other compounds with known or potential respiratory toxicity.

Although the cause of IPF is unknown, the CDC says that “exposures that have been suggested as contributing factors include viral infections, cigarette smoking, and occupations where exposure to dust, wood dust, and metal dust are common.”

Not the Disney Trip You’re Expecting

Twelve cases of Legionnaires disease have been found in recent Disneyland visitors. The outbreak was traced to two cooling towers contaminated with the bacteria.

Legionnaires is a severe form of pneumonia, caused by exposure to contaminated water, or mist. It is contracting by inhaling the microscopic water droplets that contain the bacteria and develops two to ten days after exposure. Outbreaks have been linked to a variety of water sources: hot tubs, swimming pools, air conditioners, and other water systems in large buildings. It is treatable via antibiotics (while they still work anyway), but can lead to life-threatening complications and may be fatal. People with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.

Meanwhile, Disney has shut down the contaminated cooling towers and treated them with chemicals to destroy the bacteria. A bit of an ominous uptick in Legionnaires has been recorded this year. According to the LA Times:

Orange County has recorded more than 55 cases of the disease this year and has seen the number of cases jump in recent years. A similar upward trend has been seen nationally and elsewhere in Southern California, according to the healthcare agency, though what’s causing that is unclear.