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Pontiac fever at the Playboy Mansion? Maybe. But not as much fun as you might think

BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
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February 15, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(Fred Prouser / Reuters )

Pontiac fever, the less well-known cousin of Legionnaires' disease, is having its own brush with notoriety--courtesy of the Playboy Mansion. Public health officials are still looking for what sickened 200 people who attended a four-day DOMAINfest Global Conference this month at various locations in Southern California, including the mansion. But Pontiac fever is one of the prime suspects.

It’s caused by Legionalla, the same bacteria responsible for the more serious and potentially deadly Legionnaires. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration explains the difference this way. "Unlike Legionnaires' disease, which occurs in only a small percentage of people who are exposed, Pontiac fever will occur in approximately 90 percent of those exposed."

That might account for the large number of conference-goers who got sick. If so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there's little need for alarm. "The symptoms of Pontiac fever usually last for 2 to 5 days and may include fever, headaches, and muscle aches; however, there is no pneumonia. Symptoms go away on their own without treatment and without causing further problems."

Still, officials need to find the source of the contamination. The bacteria thrive in contaminated water and can be spread via water-related features such as misters and whirlpools.

And now, with some folks fully recovered, they aren't even certain that everyone afflicted had the same illness. But one thing's for sure: The outbreak doesn't extend beyond those who attended the conference, estimated at 700 people.




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