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Two Carol Stream retirement home residents have died, and a third was sickened, in a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak being investigated by Illinois health officials.
Officials for the Covenant Living at Windsor Park retirement home did not release any other information on the three victims, who were sickened in the past eight months.
“Two residents of Windsor Park have died from a combination of Legionnaires’ disease and other underlying conditions,” Don Bolger, DuPage County Health Department’s public information officer, told the Daily Herald.
Carol Stream is a village of about 40,000 people in DuPage County, 34 miles west of the Chicago Loop.
Carol Stream outbreak: 2nd for Covenant Living
Windsor Park is the second Covenant Living facility in less than a year to report a Legionnaires outbreak. Last October, 15 cases were recorded in Batavia by the Kane County Health Department: 13 at Covenant Living at the Holmstad, and two in residents in the neighboring community. A source for that outbreak was not identified.
Covenant Living has 16 communities in nine states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Washington. Along with the Batavia and Carol Stream locations in Illinois, Covenant Living also has facilities in Chicago, Geneva, and Northbrook.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and DCHD are working with Windsor Park officials to examine the facility and see if the source of the Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, can be located. State officials will test the facility’s water.
Carol Stream outbreak: Illinois woes
This is already the fourth Legionnaires’ disease incident for the state of Illinois in 2020 – the only reported incidents in the U.S. so far this year.
Last week, a single case of the pneumonia-like illness was diagnosed in a resident of Meadowbrook Manor, a senior home in Bolingbrook. The Will County Health Department and the IDPH are investigating.
Earlier in the month, two residents at Balmoral Nursing Home and one resident at The Admiral at the Lake were diagnosed with the respiratory illness. The two North Side nursing homes are less than 2 miles apart in Chicago. It’s still unknown what caused those illnesses.
Carol Stream outbreak: possible sources
Legionnaires’ disease – which is also known as legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia – is a respiratory illness that is contracted when people inhale microscopic, aerosolized water droplets (vapor or mist) that are spread by showers, faucets, swimming pools, hot tubs, or decorative fountains, to name just a few.
Legionella bacteria thrive in warm water and are found primarily in human-made environments. Other potential breeding grounds, along with the above examples, include:
- water systems of large buildings (nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, etc.)
- large plumbing systems
- air-conditioning system cooling towers
- hot-water heaters and tanks
- physical-therapy equipment
- mist machines and hand-held sprayers.
According to DuPage County officials, Windsor Park is “implementing multiple control measures,” including flushing the plumbing system. Officials also are trying to identify other potential Legionnaires cases, based on IDPH recommendations.
Covenant Living officials have contacted residents, resident’s families, and staff regarding the situation.
Carol Stream outbreak: disease symptoms
If you are a resident of, an employee of, or are a recent visitor to the Covenant Living at Windsor Park and are feeling flu- or pneumonia-like symptoms, you should seek care from your health-care provider. Symptoms often can be mistaken for the common flu.
Even if you’ve already recovered, and were not diagnosed with legionellosis, informing your physician that you spent time at the retirement community since last May is recommended, now that the outbreak has been identified.
The disease often is overlooked or undiagnosed, leading to the condition being underreported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For the disease to be classified correctly, specific testing and diagnosis must be done from a Legionnaires’ disease standpoint, and those tests are often not ordered. It’s not required for physicians to order Legionella-specific testing when a patient presents with pneumonia.
Initial symptoms include:
- muscle pains
- 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 or pleuritis
- gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- confusion and other mental changes.
Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart. Untreated Legionnaires’ disease usually worsens during the first week, which is why early diagnosis is key to recovery.
Carol Stream outbreak: high-risk groups
A 2015 study by the CDC stated that “75 percent of (Legionnaires’ disease) acquired in health-care settings could be prevented with better water management.”
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 much higher risk.
Other people more susceptible to infection include:
- recipients of organ transplants
- individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one)
- heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages.
This list also includes anyone with an immune system weakened by:
- frequent and recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis or skin infections
- organ inflammation and infection
- blood disorders, such as low platelet counts or anemia
- digestive problems, such as cramping, appetite loss, diarrhea, and nausea
- delayed growth and development.
After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.