The health department issued a warning following the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the Brookdale Senior Living facility in Vernon Hills, which has left one person dead and two others infected.
“Since receiving the reports of Legionnaires’ disease cases late Monday, the Lake County Health Department has been working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Brookdale staff to investigate potential sources of contamination and to identify individuals who may have been exposed to Legionella bacteria,” said Mark Pfister, Executive Director for the Lake County Health Department.
Officials said that the outbreak is at Brookdale Vernon Hills, 145 North Milwaukee Avenue. The Brookdale Hawthorn Lakes location has not been affected.
The senior living community is actively notifying residents, the residents’ contacts and staff.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of severe pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. It is treatable with antibiotics and most people who get sick need care in a hospital but make a full recovery, health officials said. However, about 1 out of 10 people who get Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.
“We urge any residents and visitors of the Brookdale facility who are currently experiencing pneumonia symptoms—cough, shortness of breath, headache, muscle aches and fever—to see a doctor right away for testing,” said Dr. Sana Ahmed, a medical epidemiologist at the Lake County Health Department.
“Early treatment of Legionnaires’ disease reduces the severity of the illness and improves your chances for recovery,” Ahmed added.
Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to Legionella bacteria, heath officials said. People at increased risk of getting sick include those over the age of 50, current or former smokers, people with a chronic lung disease, weak immune systems, cancer, or who have underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.
Legionella bacteria grow in areas of warm water. They have been found in creeks and ponds, water taps (primarily hot water taps), hot water tanks, cooling towers and evaporative condensers, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains.
“In order to be infected with the bacteria, a person must breathe in a mist or vapor that contains the bacteria. There is no evidence that the Legionella bacteria are spread from person-to-person,” officials said in a statement.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 608 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported statewide in 2019.