Medical Definition of Pontiac fever

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Pontiac fever: A flu-like illness caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila contracted by breathing mist that comes from a water source (such as air conditioning cooling towers, whirlpool spas, showers) contaminated with the bacteria. The incubation period is short, from a few hours to 2 days, before the onset of fever and muscle aches. Persons with Pontiac fever do not have pneumonia. They generally recover in 2 to 5 days without treatment. Pontiac fever is so-named because of an outbreak in 1968 in Pontiac, Michigan. It is a milder form of legionellosis than Legionnaire disease which is caused by the same bacterium.

See also: Legionella; Legionellosis (Legionnaire Disease and Pontiac Fever); Legionnaire disease.

Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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