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Chicago health officials are investigating 2020’s first Legionnaires’ disease cases at not one but two nursing homes on the city’s North Side.
Two residents at Balmoral Nursing Home (2055 West Balmoral) and one at The Admiral at the Lake (929 West Foster) were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, a pneumonia-like respiratory illness. The two facilities are less than two miles apart, but a news release from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) stated that the cases “do not appear to be related.”
Legionnaires’ disease – which is also known as Legionella pneumonia or legionellosis – is contracted when people inhale microscopic aerosolized water droplets (vapor or mist), such as those formed by showers, hot tubs, misting stations, or large air conditioners.
Chicago-area Legionnaires outbreak: test results awaited
The IDPH sent investigators to both facilities and conducted water testing. The department is working on the investigation in conjunction with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Chicago Department of Water Management.
Results from the IDPH’s water samples are expected before the end of the month.
December testing by Balmoral’s water consultants came back negative for Legionella, the bacteria that causes LD.
“The facility is conducting water treatment and testing,” Balmoral administrator Meir Stern wrote in a statement. “The facility’s water has consistently tested negative for Legionella.”
Mark Dubovick, health services administrator for The Admiral at the Lake, released a similar statement: “We are taking precautionary steps as recommended by the Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, and our water management consultant, Garratt Callahan. We are also following additional steps outlined in our Water Management Plan.”
The Admiral at the Lake resident who was sickened has been admitted to a local hospital. The condition of the two Balmoral residents was not released.
Chicago-area Legionnaires outbreak: busy 2019 for city
There were numerous outbreaks in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs last year:
- In April, there were two illnesses at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.
- In May, there were two illnesses at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
- In June, there were four illnesses at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, a suburb of Chicago (one of the four was an employee).
- Last summer, there were two illnesses at Rush Oak Park Hospital in Oak Park.
- In mid-August, two guests of the Americinn by Wyndham Hotel in Schaumburg were diagnosed with LD.
- In late August, four senior residents of Covenant Living at the Holmstad were hospitalized with LD. By mid-September, that outbreak had sickened 12 residents, plus two neighbors.
Chicago-area Legionnaires outbreak: disease symptoms
If you are a resident, an employee of, or are a recent visitor to the Balmoral Nursing Home or The Admiral at the Lake and are feeling flu- or pneumonia-like symptoms, you should seek care from your health-care provider. Symptoms often can be mistaken for the common flu, and they usually develop two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella:
- severe headaches
- muscle aches
- fever, which can be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and chills.
By the second or third day, symptoms can worsen to include:
- coughing, which can produce mucus or blood
- shortness of breath, or dyspnea
- chest pains; also called pleurisy, pleuritis, or pleuritic chest pains
- gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
- confusion and other mental problems.
Chicago-area Legionnaires outbreak: high-risk groups
Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it can cause infections elsewhere in the body, including the heart. If left untreated, LD usually worsens during the first week, which is why early diagnosis is key to recovery.
Most people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, but people 50 and older – especially those who smoke or have chronic lung conditions – are at a much higher risk.
Other people more susceptible to infection include:
- organ-transplant recipients
- individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one)
This list also includes anyone with an immune system weakened by:
- frequent and recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis or skin infections
- organ inflammation and infection
- blood disorders, such as low platelet counts or anemia
- digestive problems, such as cramping, appetite loss, diarrhea, and nausea
- delayed growth and development.
After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is almost always necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.
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