Legionnaires' Disease Outbreaks Found at Several Illinois Facilities

Infectious disease experts are investigating new cases of Legionnaires' disease found at several facilities across Illinois.

In late December 2019, KWQC reported that a resident of the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy contracted the disease. On Jan. 10, 2020, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced Legionnaires' disease discoveries at two separate Chicago area nursing homes, which authorities say are unrelated. Within a week of that, Patch reported that another case was found at a senior facility in Bolingbrook. And just north of that area, DuPage County officials were investigating three cases at a retirement community that emerged since May 2019 and contributed to two deaths, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

While each of these cases prompted testing for Legionella and reviews of existing water management plans, they also underscore the need for a proactive approach to disease prevention — especially for building owners and managers housing vulnerable populations.

Recurrence of Disease Following a Deadly Outbreak

This isn't the first time Legionnaires' disease has affected the state-run veterans home in Quincy. An outbreak that began in 2015 sickened 56 people and went on to kill 12 others, WGEM reported.

In response, the State of Illinois spent more than $9.6 million on Legionella remediation at the facility, including $5.7 million on the plumbing infrastructure and $1.35 million on a water testing vendor. Additionally, state officials earmarked $230 million in 2018 to renovate the entire facility and its water systems, which they expect will prevent future cases of the disease, WGEM reported.

Investigations Underway at Chicago Area Facilities

In its January 2020 release, the IDPH reported that two Balmoral Nursing Home residents and a single resident at Admiral at the Lake, a senior living facility in Chicago, were diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease.

State public health officials said that Balmoral Nursing Home had implemented water restrictions, installed water filters in some areas, and began conducting surveillance to determine potential causes of the outbreak. Although the IDPH is awaiting test results, the facility's consultant reported that their internal water samples came up negative for traces of Legionella. At the same time, Admiral at the Lake began implementing testing and clinical management, and hired a water management company, according to the IDPH.

In Bolingbrook, where county health officials confirmed a health care-associated case of the disease at the senior facility Meadowbrook Manor, the IDPH recommended surveillance to identify other potential causes and a review of the facility's water management plan. They also recommended the facility take steps to reduce residents' exposure to aerosolized water.

Meanwhile, experts continue to investigate three cases of Legionnaires' disease that occurred at Covenant Living at Windsor Park, a retirement community in Carol Stream. Two residents who had other medical conditions died from complications of the disease. The DuPage County Health Department and the IDPH said they're working with Windsor Park officials to investigate the outbreak. Additionally, they're taking a closer look at the facility's water management plan and implementing multiple control measures, which include flushing the plumbing system.

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Alyssa Danigelis

Alyssa Danigelis is a professional freelance journalist who covers business, sustainability, energy, science, and technology. She received a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Having grown up in Burlington, Vermont, she spent formative time in Boston and pounded the pavement for years in New York City before moving to sunny Colorado, where she currently resides.