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For the third time this year, a Legionnaires’ disease cluster has hit Illinois’ McHenry County after three cases were confirmed at McHenry Villa Senior Living, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced in a news release.

Meanwhile in Chicago, a third case of Legionnaires’ disease also was just added to the count for Warren Barr South Loop nursing home (more below).

While all three cases in McHenry County are linked to residents at McHenry Villa (3516 Waukegan Road in the city of McHenry), health officials are investigating whether the facility is the source. All three patients also had potential outside exposures, and two of those occurred at Centegra Hospital-McHenry, part of Northwestern Medicine.

“Within the last month, we completed a routine water test at our McHenry hospital, and the results showed there was no Legionella pneumophila in the water,” according to a statement by Michelle Green, Northwestern Medicine’s media relations manager (Legionella pneumophila are the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease). “We do not believe our hospital was the site for this exposure.”

McHenry Villa: county hit again

McHenry County’s first cluster of 2018 affected 12 people in June and July. Six of them were believed to have been sickened within a 1½-mile radius of the intersection of Route 176 and Walkup Road in Crystal Lake. The source, however, never was identified.

The county’s second incident occurred in October, when three people were infected. The source was believed to be the Johnsburg SuperCenter Walmart.

The number of Legionnaires’ disease cases the county has experienced this year is unusual. Last year, there were only four Legionnaires cases in McHenry County; before that, there were nine in 2016, and three in 2015.

According to the 2010 census, McHenry County had a population of 308,760, making it the sixth-most populous county in Illinois. It lies on the Wisconsin state line in the northeast corner of Illinois.

McHenry Villa, Warren Barr report more Legionnaires

McHenry Villa Senior Living in McHenry, Illinois, and Warren Barr South Loop nursing home in Chicago have confirmed three cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

McHenry Villa: more woes

In September, McHenry Villa flooded after a water pipe burst, causing the 100-plus residents to be moved for a month. Noreen Zaio, McHenry Villa’s executive director, said it is unknown if the flooding had anything to do with the Legionnaires’ disease cases.

“The health and safety of our residents and staff is our number one priority, and our staff will continue to ensure our residents receive uninterrupted service,” Zaio said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the department of health to support its efforts and follow all the recommended guidelines and procedures to minimize exposure for residents, visitors, and staff.”

Zaio also said McHenry Villa is notifying residents and staff of the illnesses, as well as following all health-department recommendations.

McHenry Villa: symptoms

If you are a McHenry Villa resident or employee or have visited the facility and are feeling pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms, you should see your doctor out of an abundance of caution.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe lung infection that is contracted by breathing in small droplets of water (mist or vapor) containing Legionella bacteria.

The disease is similar to other types of pneumonia, and symptoms can even resemble those of influenza (flu), which is why it often goes under-reported. Symptoms include:

  • coughing
  • dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • high fever
  • muscle pains
  • severe headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.).

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it can sometimes cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart.

“Legionnaires’ disease does not spread from person to person,” IDPH director Nirav D. Shah said in a statement. “IDPH is investigating possible sources, identifying individuals who may have been exposed and recommending remediation and prevention measures.”

McHenry Villa: seniors at risk

Anyone can contract Legionella, but those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers, current or former
  • people with chronic lung disease or COPD (most commonly, emphysema or bronchitis)
  • heavy drinkers of alcohol
  • people with a weakened immune system
  • organ-transplant recipients
  • people on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, etc.).

McHenry Villa: and Warren Barr, too

Officials in Chicago said they believe the latest patient sickened at the Warren Barr South Loop transitional rehabilitation center was exposed to Legionella bacteria before Warren Barr switched to bottled water while environmental tests were being conducted.

This outbreak is not the first for Warren Barr. In July 2015, a resident at Warren Barr Gold Coast died from Legionnaires’ disease. (The Gold Coast rehab center is approximately 4 miles from the South Loop facility.) A source was never found.

The IDPH reports that the state experiences a little more than 300 cases of Legionnaires’ disease annually. There were 332 cases confirmed in 2017, and 318 in 2016.

McHenry Villa: more on Legionnaires

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia (lung infection). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella pneumophila occur annually in the United States. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria grow best in warm water, and they are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks and clusters have been linked to a number of sources, including:

  • water systems, like those in nursing homes, hospitals, and hotels
  • large plumbing systems
  • bathroom showers and faucets
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • swimming pools, whirlpools, hot tubs
  • decorative fountains
  • mist machines, like those in the produce sections of grocery stores
  • hand-held sprayers
  • physical-therapy equipment
  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems.