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The Covenant Living Legionnaires outbreak in Batavia, Illinois, has spread beyond the senior living community, with two additional cases of Legionnaires’ disease confirmed in the surrounding area.

Public health officials are warning residents of Covenant Living at the Holmstad (700 West Fabyan Parkway), as well as anyone living within a mile of the facility, to be on the lookout for symptoms of respiratory illness that could stem from exposure to Legionella bacteria.

The outbreak, which is now up to 14 illnesses, first made headlines when it was announced August 31 that four residents were hospitalized. The most recent cases were confirmed Thursday, when the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced that it had received reports of two community-based cases.

In 2018, Illinois reported 512 cases of Legionnaires’ disease statewide. This year, there have been 255 confirmed cases.

Covenant Living Legionnaires outbreak: Legionella search continues

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious form of pneumonia (lung disease) that is also called legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia. It can be contracted by breathing in small droplets of water (mist or vapor) containing Legionella bacteria.

At Covenant Living, officials said the two new cases prompted them to test additional samples at Covenant Living and within a 1-mile radius of the campus. The IDPH also has “recommended remediation steps of suspected sources,” agency leaders said.

For updates on the outbreak or for more information about Legionnaires’ disease, go to KaneHealth.com/Pages/Menu-Disease.aspx.

Covenant Living Legionnaires outbreak: neighbor sickened

Angela Prusinski, who lives about three blocks from Covenant Living, said she started feeling ill after a family picnic Sept. 1, but because she has underlying health conditions and underwent surgery in July, she told the Daily Herald that she thought, “Maybe I just overdid it today.”

When she awoke the next day, however, she said she had chills and muscle aches, and she “felt awful, worse than the flu.”

Prusinski said she went to the emergency room that night with stomach aches and cramping, although she had not yet experienced respiratory problems. After learning that her white blood cell count was elevated, doctors prescribed a broad-spectrum antibiotic and sent her home.

She returned to the hospital Sept. 7, and tests performed then revealed she had elevated blood pressure and a high resting heart rate – and doctors discovered she had bacterial pneumonia in her left lung.

Prusinski underwent more tests and was sent home Sept. 10. Two days later, she got a call from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kane County Health Department (KCHD) informing her that she had Legionnaires’ disease.

The identity of the second nearby resident has not been released.

Covenant Living Legionnaires outbreak: difficult diagnosis

Public health officials are advising that residents, employees, and visitors to Covenant Living who are feeling flu- or pneumonia-like symptoms see their doctor immediately.

Symptoms generally develop two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella, and they usually begin with severe headaches, muscle aches, fever (which can be 104 degrees or higher), and chills.

By Day 2 or 3, symptoms often worsen to include:

  • coughing, which can produce mucus or blood
  • dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • chest pains (pleurisy or pleuritic chest pains)
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • confusion and other mental changes.

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

Covenant Living Legionnaires outbreak: seniors at risk

Most people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, but people older than 50 – especially those who smoke or have a chronic lung disease (such as COPD) – are at a much greater risk of becoming infected. Other people more susceptible to infection include:

  • organ-transplant recipients
  • anyone on a specific drug protocol, such as corticosteroids
  • alcoholics.

The list also includes anyone with an immune system that has been compromised because of:

  • frequent and recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis or skin infections
  • organ inflammation and infection
  • blood disorders, such as anemia or low platelet counts
  • digestive problems, such as cramping, appetite loss, diarrhea, and nausea.

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is almost always necessary. In the most severe circumstances, complications can develop, such as respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.