Introduction: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidence of many droplet-transmitted infections decreased due to increased mask-wearing and social distancing. Contrastingly, there has been concern that COVID-19 countermeasures, such as lockdowns, may increase legionellosis incidence via water stagnation. During the pandemic in Japan, four state of emergency declarations were imposed between 2020 and 2021, which makes it particularly suitable to test this hypothesis. Methods: We use country-level surveillance data from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases to track the relative incidence of legionellosis compared to invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, with a focus on the periods just after state of emergency declarations were lifted. Results: The absolute number of legionellosis and IPD cases decreased in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years. The average relative incidence of legionellosis as well as the variance of the relative incidence significantly increased during the pandemic compared to previous years. There were no increases in the relative incidence of legionellosis during the periods immediately following emergency declaration liftings, but the relative incidence did increase considerably during the first two states of emergency. Conclusions: COVID-19 countermeasures appear more effective at decreasing the incidence of human-to-human transmitted infections, such as IPD, compared to environmentally-transmitted infections, such as legionellosis. Though no evidence was found to suggest that legionellosis cases increased after state of emergency declarations, public health efforts should continue to emphasize the importance of routine sanitation and water system maintenance to prevent water stagnation and Legionella spp. contamination.
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