Pontiac fever. An epidemic of unknown etiology in a health department: I. Clinical and epidemiologic aspects

Am J Epidemiol. 1978 Feb;107(2):149-60. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a112517.


In July 1968, an explosive epidemic of acute febrile illness occurred at a county health department facility in Pontiac, Michigan. Illness characterized principally by fever, headache, myalgia, and malaise affected at least 144 persons, including 95 of 100 persons employed in the health department building. The mean incubation period was approximately 36 hours. Illness was self-limited, generally lasting from two to five days. Secondary cases did not occur in family contacts and second attacks did not consistently follow re-exposure in the building. A defective air-conditioning system was implicated as the source and mechanism of spread of the causative factor. However, extensive laboratory and environmental investigations failed to identify the etiologic agent. Since these investigations a bacterium similar to or identical with the agent responsible for Legionnaires' Disease has been isolated from guinea pigs exposed to the Pontiac health department building in 1968 as well as from guinea pigs exposed to water from the evaporative condenser. Paired sera from 32 cases of Pontiac Fever showed seroconversion or diagnostic rises in antibody titers to this bacterium.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Air Conditioning
  • Bacterial Infections
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Fever of Unknown Origin / diagnosis
  • Fever of Unknown Origin / etiology*
  • Government Agencies
  • Legionnaires' Disease*
  • Michigan
  • Syndrome
  • Water Microbiology