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A Rash of Legionnaire's Disease Hits Illinois

 9731238_s-300x200.jpgImage credit: 123RF[/caption] On September 23, 2015, three schools in Illinois' U-46 school district - which covers 11 communities in Cook, DuPage, and Kane counties - were closed after test results showed "higher than normal levels of Legionella bacteria." Specific readings were not provided, other than an indication that readings were above the 1,000 colony-forming units per millimeter recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Last month, on September 1, 2015, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that 39 residents of the Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy contracted Legionnaires' disease, seven of whom died. Legionnaires' is a form of pneumonia that primarily affects the lungs, but it can also cause serious infections in wounds or the heart. Those at highest risk of infection are smokers, anyone over the age of 50, those with chronic lung diseases, or anyone with a weakened immune system. Legionnaires' disease can be fatal or lead to life-threatening complications such as septic shock, respiratory failure, and kidney failure. According to the IDPH, most cases of Legionnaires' disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella bacteria growth, such as hot water tanks, cooling towers, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.  In order to be infected with the bacteria, a person must inhale contaminated water vapor and Legionnaires' disease cannot be transmitted person-to-person.  The disease typically develops two to ten days after exposure to the Legionella bacteriawith symptoms like fever, muscle pain, and chills appearing first, followed by mental changes, chest pain, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal problems. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates between 8,000 and 18,000 people each year in the United States are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease, and IDPH says that there are about 200 cases of the disease in Illinois each year. Other recent outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease include:

  • Two isolated illnesses occurred: one at Illinois' Stateville prison in August 2015, the other in July 2015 at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
  • High levels of Legionella bacteria were found in the water system at a substance abuse treatment unit in Arizona at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, leading authorities to relocate 20 patients in August 2015.
  • A building at a GlaxoSmithKline drug manufacturing plant in Zebulon, N.C., was closed temporarily in August 2015 after Legionella bacteria were found in the external cooling towers there; no one was sickened.
  • Over the summer, at least 124 cases of Legionnaires' disease were identified at various locations the South Bronx; 12 people have died.
  • In September 2015, California's San Quentin prison reported six confirmed cases of the disease.

Because the Legionella bacteria are waterborne, all water systems - including water storage towers, plumbing systems, swimming pools, and hot tubs - need to be properly disinfected to prevent the spread of the disease. The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish focus on representing accident and injury victims. Contact our office at (312) 445-9084 to schedule a free consultation to learn more about the recent outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in Illinois.   Sources:

    Steinberg Goodman & Kalish (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families. We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 or (312) 445-9084.

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