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A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Brookdale Vernon Hills senior living community center in suburban Chicago has increased to five cases after two new illnesses were confirmed.
Brookdale Vernon Hills is the sixth senior facility in the state of Illinois to be investigated for a legionellosis outbreak since the start of the year.
The outbreak first made headlines on Feb. 3, when it was reported that a 92-year-old male had died. No additional information has been released by the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) on the five victims.
Brookdale Vernon Hills is located at 145 North Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills, about 37 miles north of the Chicago Loop.
Brookdale Vernon Hills Legionnaires: Actions taken
Brookdale Vernon Hills officials said they have taken these preventative measures:
- Shut off water features.
- Closed the pool and spa.
- Cleaned all shower heads.
- Added point-of-use filters wherever possible.
“We continue to follow the recommendations of a national water-treatment company regarding flushing water lines, cleaning shower heads, and adding point-of-use filters,” Mitch Kline, senior public relations specialist for Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living, stated in an email. “Our associates have been trained in the correct protocols to minimize the chance of exposure to the Legionella bacteria and to monitor residents for signs and symptoms of illness.”
Brookdale Senior Living is working with the LCHD and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to locate the possible source of the Legionella bacteria causing the outbreak.
Brookdale Vernon Hills Legionnaires: Illinois woes
Five other senior facilities have reported LD issues to the IDPH in 2020:
- Jan. 27: Two residents at Lakewood Nursing in Plainfield were sickened.
- Jan. 18: The Covenant Living at Windsor Park retirement home in Carol Stream reported that two residents died, and a third was sickened, in the past eight months.
- Jan. 16: Meadowbrook Manor in Bolingbrook confirmed one illness.
- Jan. 10: Two residents at Balmoral Nursing Home and one resident at The Admiral at the Lake were diagnosed with the respiratory illness.
Brookdale Vernon Hills Legionnaires: Symptoms
If you are a resident of, an employee of, or a recent visitor to Brookdale Vernon Hills and are feeling flu- or pneumonia-like symptoms, you should seek immediate care from your health-care provider. The disease often is overlooked or undiagnosed because of its vague symptoms, leading to the condition being underreported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
Initial symptoms generally include:
- severe headaches
- muscle aches
- fever, which can be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
By Day 2 or 3, symptoms often worsen to include:
- coughing, which can produce mucus or blood
- dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- pleurisy or pleuritis (chest pains)
- gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
- confusion and other mental changes.
Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections elsewhere in the body, including the heart. The disease usually worsens during the first week, which is why early diagnosis is important to recovery.
Brookdale Vernon Hills Legionnaires: In the air
“The way people get exposed to (Legionella) is it’s in the water,” Mike Adam, deputy director of environmental health for the LCHD, told the Chicago Tribune. “But it’s aerosolized, so it somehow gets up in the air and people breathe it in.
“While the disease isn’t uncommon, it can be dangerous and potentially fatal for (senior citizens). But on the other hand, residents at the Vernon Hills senior center rarely leave the facility, so it can help officials identify the source easier.”
Legionnaires’ disease is also known as legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia and is contracted when people inhale microscopic, aerosolized water droplets (vapor or mist) that can be spread by showers, faucets, swimming pools, hot tubs, or decorative fountains, to name a few sources.
Other potential breeding grounds for Legionella include:
- water systems of large buildings (nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, etc.)
- large plumbing systems
- air-conditioning system cooling towers
- hot-water heaters and tanks
- physical-therapy equipment
- mist machines and hand-held sprayers.
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