Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Legionnaires lawyer Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for clients harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease at McHenry Villa, you might have cause to file a lawsuit. Call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

An Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) investigation uncovered Legionella bacteria and structural issues with the plumbing system at the McHenry Villa Senior Living facility in McHenry. Three residents were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease in early November, and one of them – former McHenry city mayor Donald P. Doherty – died Nov. 21.

The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak was the third to affect McHenry County in 2018.

The IDPH sent a notice of violation to McHenry Villa regarding the sanitary hazard in its plumbing system.

“Our concern is the health and safety of the McHenry Villa residents,” IDPH director Nirav D. Shah said in a press release. “Because this community is similar to an independently operated apartment complex, implementation of water-use restrictions is not feasible, and correction of the violations may not be possible while residents are occupying the building. IDPH is notifying McHenry Villa of the violations so the owners can remediate the plumbing system and provide a healthy living community for residents and staff.”

McHenry Villa executive director Noreen Zaio said that after consulting with IDPH, McHenry County officials and McHenry Villa’s water-quality management company, evacuation of residents was not necessary.

“We take this situation very seriously,” Zaio said. “Upon learning of the test results, McHenry Villa took immediate action and is implementing a remediation plan as directed by the state.”

In a letter to residents, McHenry Villa officials said they are committed to fully complying with IDPH’s directives and guidance and will inform residents and staff of their response. Possible actions that may be taken, according to IDPH public information officer Melaney Arnold, include:

  • hiring a consultant
  • adding or replacing filters on showers, sink faucets and fixtures
  • reviewing cooling tower operations.
Former mayor passes
Doherty, 91, died of Legionella at the JourneyCare CareCenter hospice facility in Woodstock, his son told the Chicago Tribune. A lifelong resident of McHenry, Doherty contracted Legionnaire’s disease at McHenry Villa, where he had been living. Doherty was mayor of McHenry from 1961 to 1973.

The conditions of the other two residents sickened were not released.

IDPH said all three patients had outside exposure, and two of the three could have been exposed at Centegra Hospital-McHenry, part of Northwestern Medicine, something hospital officials say is not likely. It’s unknown if Doherty was one of the two believed to have been exposed at Centegra.

No stranger to Legionella
The first cluster of the year in McHenry County infected 12 people in June and July. Six of the 12 were believed to have been sickened within a 1½-mile radius of the intersection of Route 176 and Walkup Road in Crystal Lake, but the source never was identified.

Three people were affected during the second outbreak in October. The source of that outbreak was believed to be the Johnsburg Walmart Supercenter.

There were four cases of Legionnaires’ disease in McHenry County in 2017, nine in 2016, and three in 2015.

The county is located in northeastern Illinois, along the Wisconsin state line. According to the 2010 census, it had a population of 308,760, making it the sixth-most populous county in Illinois.

Legionnaires FAQs

What is Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. The bacterial infection is treatable with antibiotics, although if it is not diagnosed early, it can lead to severe complications and even become deadly. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur in the United States on a yearly basis. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.Ten percent of people who become infected with Legionnaires will die from the infection.

How is Legionella distributed?
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources:

  • water systems, such as those used in nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, and apartment complexes
  • large plumbing systems
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • showers and faucets
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • swimming pools
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • decorative fountains.

What are the symptoms?
The disease is similar to other types of pneumonia. Symptoms can even resemble those of the flu, which is why it often goes under-reported. Those symptoms include:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart.A mild form of Legionnaires’ disease — known as Pontiac fever — can produce signs and symptoms including a fever, chills, headaches and muscle pains. Pontiac fever, however, doesn’t infect the lungs, and symptoms usually manifest within two to five days.

Seniors are most susceptible
Most people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, but people 50 years old and older – especially those who smoke or have chronic lung conditions – are at a higher risk.Other people more susceptible to infection include:

  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages.

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe Legionnaires cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.