A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at Brookdale Senior Living in Vernon Hills, IL now includes five cases and an increase of two cases since the outbreak was announced on February 5. One person has died.
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Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia that is transmitted when water vapor contaminated with Legionella bacteria is inhaled. It is not spread through person-to-person contact.
While Legionella bacteria exist in nature, they grow best in warm, stagnant water. Outbreaks are frequently associated with the complex plumbing systems of hospitals, hotels and long-term care facilities.
Symptoms of an infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache and muscle aches.
Some people are at higher risk of developing this disease than others. They include current and former smokers, people over 50 and people with weakened immune systems and people with underlying medical conditions.
Brookdale has implemented water restrictions such as cleaning shower heads, adding water filters and shutting off all water features inside the facility. Management is working with state and county health officials on an investigation of the outbreak.
If you or a family member are part of this outbreak and you need legal help, please contact our legal team. Pritzker Hageman Legionnaires’ disease lawyers have decades of experience representing people who have been sickened by Legionella bacteria and families who have suffered the wrongful death of a loved one. To request a free consultation, please call 1(888) 377-8900 (toll-free), text 612-261-0856 or use the form below.
In a statement to Pioneer Press late last week from its corporate office, Brookdale Senior Living said the business is following protocols and recommendations from county and state officials on containing the outbreak.
The measures have included shutting off all water features at the Vernon Hills facility, including the pond, along with cleaning shower heads and adding the water filters to try and minimize the chance of residents there being exposed to Legionella bacteria, the company said.
Brookdale Senior Living also is working with officials at the the Lake County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health as they investigate the possible sources of the outbreak.
“The health of our residents and associates is our greatest concern, and we are taking appropriate steps regarding the situation,” Brookdale said in a statement.
Mike Adam, deputy director of environmental health for the Lake County Health Department, said county officials started investigating shortly after the outbreak was first reported to the department Feb. 3.
Investigators are working to determine possible causes and looking for any possible similarities in cases that have involved recently hospitalized patients who either are exhibiting signs of pneumonia or Legionnaires’ disease.
“Did everybody go to the swimming pool at the same time or eat in the same area?” Adam said of the similarities investigators are looking for.
Investigators with both the county and state health department also have taken water samples from various areas in the Brookdale facility and conducted swab tests, such as in the pools and bathroom sinks, Adam said. He said they’re also looking in pipes and other parts of the water distribution system at the facility.
Adam said the Legionella bacteria can form in any place where there has been stagnant, warm water.
But people commonly become sick from it when they breathe in water droplets containing the bacteria, as it enters into the person’s lungs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The way people get exposed to (Legionella) is it’s in the water,” Adam said. “But it’s aerosolized, so it somehow gets up in the air and people breathe it in.”
The other issue for the Vernon Hills case is how dangerous this kind of outbreak can be for those who are older or who have compromised immune systems, he said.
While the disease isn’t uncommon, it can be dangerous and potentially fatal for those demographics, he said. 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, Adam said.
Adam said county officials currently are awaiting various test results that can help them better determine the exact source.