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The Kane County Health Department (KCHD) announced that four more cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been diagnosed in residents at Covenant Living at the Holmstad in Batavia, Illinois, increasing the number of residents sickened to eight.

Four residents were hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease last month at the senior living community, which is located at 700 West Fabyan Parkway.

“Two cases were reported to us this week, we received word of an early-onset case from mid-August, and an additional case reported this past Saturday,” KCHD’s news release quoted executive director Barbara Jeffers. “We are working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Covenant Living to monitor this situation.”

Covenant Living outbreak: test results pending

Health officials have yet to locate the source of the Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease.

“Water testing results are still pending with IDPH to determine if there is a source of Legionella bacteria on the Holmstad campus,” Amanda Gosnell, Covenant Living executive director, was quoted in the release. “However, because the safety of our residents, guests, and employees is our top priority, we have proactively and aggressively moved forward with several of the measures that could potentially be advised in the event of a positive result.

“We continue to collaborate closely with water management experts and state and the Kane County health departments and are following all recommendations; under their advisement, we continue to welcome visitors and maintain regular operations.”

Covenant Living outbreak: proactive measures taken

Since the initial report, Covenant Living officials have kept residents and employees informed of the situation and have been collaborating with both the state and county on proactive measures, the release stated.

More information about Legionnaires’ disease and updates on the outbreak can be found at KaneHealth.com/Pages/Menu-Disease.aspx.

In 2018, Illinois reported 512 cases of Legionnaires’ disease statewide. So far, 2019 has produced 251 confirmed illnesses.

Covenant Living outbreak: difficult diagnosis

Seek care from your health-care provider if you are a resident, employee or have visited Covenant Living recently and are feeling flu- or pneumonia-like symptoms, which usually develop two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella. Initial symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • muscle pains
  • chills
  • fever, which can be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

By the second or third day, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • cough, which can bring up mucus or blood
  • shortness of breath also called dyspnea
  • chest pains also called pleurisy
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • confusion and other mental changes.

Anyone can get the disease, but those at the most significant risk of infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease, such as COPD (most commonly, bronchitis or emphysema)
  • people with weakened immune systems.
Covenant Living outbreak: warm water problematic

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 every year. However, because of the disease’s vague symptoms, only 5,000 cases are reported.

A person contracts Legionella bacteria by Inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as:

  • air-conditioning system cooling towers
  • large plumbing systems
  • water systems of large buildings (hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, etc.)
  • hot-water heaters and tanks
  • bathroom showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • whirlpools and hot tubs
  • physical-therapy equipment
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.
Covenant Living outbreak: numerous complications

Hospitalization is almost always required after a diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease. In the most severe cases, complications can occur, such as:

  • respiratory failure: caused by changes to the lung tissue, or oxygen loss in arteries supplying the lungs.
  • septic shock: this can occur when Legionella produce toxins that enter the bloodstream and cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to the loss of adequate blood supply to the organs.
  • kidney failure: those same Legionella toxins can damage the kidneys’ ability to eliminate waste from the blood, resulting in kidney failure.
  • endocarditis: an infection of the inner lining of the heart that can affect the ability of the heart to maintain adequate blood flow through the body.
  • pericarditis: swelling of the pericardium, which is the primary membrane around the heart. This can also affect the ability of the heart to circulate blood throughout the body.

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

According to CDC statistics, about one out of every 10 people (10 percent) infected with Legionnaires will die due to complications from the illness.