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The original item was published from 2/20/2020 12:07:00 PM to 4/1/2020 12:00:03 AM.

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Posted on: February 5, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Legionnaires' disease

The Lake County Health Department continues to investigate an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at Brookdale Senior Living in Vernon Hills, located on Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills. Since receiving initial reports of Legionnaires’ disease at the facility, a total of five confirmed cases have been identified, including one death. The Health Department has been working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Brookdale staff to investigate the outbreak and to prevent additional exposure to Legionella bacteria. The Brookdale Hawthorn Lakes facility is not impacted. 

We urge any residents and visitors of the Brookdale facility who are currently experiencing pneumonia symptoms—cough, shortness of breath, headache, muscle aches, and fever—to see a doctor right away for testing for Legionnaires’ disease. Early treatment reduces the severity of the illness and improves your chances for recovery.

Results from the environmental investigation confirmed the presence of Legionella bacteria in samples collected at the facility on February 5, 2020, before full preventative measures were implemented. Legionella bacteria were detected in one apartment, a pool filter, an irrigation system, and a decorative water fountain. 

Several preventative measures have been implemented at the Brookdale facility to prevent exposure to Legionella bacteria, including point-of-use filters. Thermal disinfection of the entire water system was performed the week of February 10, 2020, and hyperchlorination of the water system is scheduled.  

Because infection from Legionella occurs when a person inhales water mist or vapor containing the bacteria, water features have been turned off and the facility’s pool and spa have been drained. These measures will remain in place and will be re-evaluated after additional environmental testing results are received. 

About Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of severe pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. It is treatable with antibiotics (drugs that kill bacteria in the body). Most people who get sick need care in a hospital but make a full recovery. However, about 1 out of 10 people who get Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.

Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to Legionella bacteria. People at increased risk of getting sick include:

  • People ages 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
  • People with cancer
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure

Legionella bacteria grow in areas of warm water. They have been found in creeks and ponds, water taps (primarily hot water taps), hot water tanks, cooling towers and evaporative condensers, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains. In order to be infected with the bacteria, a person must breathe in a mist or vapor that contains the bacteria. There is no evidence that the Legionella bacteria are spread from person-to-person.

According to provisional data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 608 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported statewide in 2019. Legionnaires’ is a reportable disease in the state of Illinois, and cases must be reported to the local health department within seven days. Timely reporting allows identification of additional cases and control of possible contaminated sources.

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